Do N95 Masks Help Slow Down the Spread of the Coronavirus?

The ongoing current coronavirus catastrophe has been labeled a once in a lifetime pandemic. But if there’s a crisis that follows closely to the coronavirus pandemic, it largely involves information or the lack thereof in this instance. 

We are at a time when the world needs better-detailed information involving the disease, how to avoid contracting it, and what to do to avoid infecting others if you have it. 

One of the most hotly contested concerns being debated around the world involves the importance of wearing a face mask in public settings as a preemptive measure to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.

During the early stages of the pandemic, health experts suggested that the use of face masks in public was not necessary. That approach was changed rather swiftly after substantial evidence indicated that there were people who were infected but did not exhibit any symptoms.

The World Health Organization (WHO) published guidelines on the importance of masks in protecting the wearer from infecting or contracting the virus. However, with so many masks available in the market and so little information available yet there’s an ongoing pandemic, it is easy for anyone to feel overwhelmed.

N95 masks, in particular, have been presented as the best form of face-covering to fight the spread of the virus. N95 masks meet the United States standard that requires masks to filter out at least 95% of tiny particles such as those that have the coronavirus-causing pathogens.

But how do they do that and what gives them that edge over other masks such as fabric masks of which the WHO insists the public should use? Continue reading below to find out.

How COVID-19 Spreads From Person To Person

Before breaking down how an N95 mask works to curb the spread of Covid-19, let’s first take a look into how the disease spreads.

The coronavirus spreads primarily through physical contact and droplet infection. When we sneeze, cough, or talk, we all release droplets of moisture of various sizes from within our respiratory systems. If a person is infected with Covid-19, they may very well emit droplets that carry coronavirus-causing pathogens into breathable air.

If the droplets are bigger than 5 micrometers, they will settle on a surface quickly. That’s why people are asked to observe a social distance of 6 feet from others. Contaminated surfaces are also an avenue of transmission hence why people are urged to clean their hands with soap and water ever so often.

However, if the droplets happen to be small, they will travel a lot further than 6 feet and may linger in the air for longer than an hour depending on the air circulation. That’s why wearing a mask in public is so important. A cause for alarm that has prompted people to keep a mask on when out in public at all times is that some people are asymptomatic.

This means they are infected with the virus but are not showing any signs and this makes it very easy for asymptomatic carriers to spread the virus to others. For this reason, people are urged to wear a mask regardless of whether they show any symptoms of infection or not.

How the Use of an N95 Mask Can Help Slow Down the Infection Rates of COVID-19

N95 masks are named so for their capacity to filter 95% or more of small particles no smaller than 0.3 microns in size and are highly effective at protecting the wearer against airborne pathogens.

N95 masks are made of several filtration layers that work to trap respiratory droplets exhaled by the wearer. They also protect the wearer from inhaling respiratory droplets that could be lingering in contaminated air.

The material used to make the filtration layers has fibers that are as thin as a micron in size that makes it almost impossible for particles to penetrate the mask. Another reason that N95 masks a highly efficient filter is their use of static electricity technology to attract incoming and outgoing particles that are then trapped by the fibers of the mask.

The design of N95 masks allows them to create a firm seal around the wearer’s mouth and the bridge of their nose. Masks that have openings around the edges allow for potentially contaminated air to leak in and out thus posing a risk to the wearer. This is why healthcare workers who are in the direst need of N95 masks go for fit testing.

Fit testing gives the intended wearer of the mask the opportunity to tailor the mask to fit their face. Everyone has a different face and different face sizes.

N95 masks are, however, not without their faults. Some N95 masks are made with respiratory valves incorporated into the fabric. They make it easy for the wearer to breathe through but experts have however advised against the public use of such masks.

As much as they will do a good job in protecting the wearer, they can compromise the health of other people. The air that is released through the respiratory valve is unfiltered which means if the wearer is Covid-19 positive, they run a high risk of infecting the people around them.

This point may not really be a drawback to using N95 masks but should be considered as a red flag. The high demand and short supply of N95 masks have led to an influx of counterfeit N95s in the market. If an N95 mask has no NIOSH markings, no approval number on the fabric, or has ear loops instead of ear bands, the mask is probably counterfeit.

Wearing an N95 Mask Will Protect You From COVID-19 but We Should Do More

Having an N95 mask on will go a long way in curbing the spread of the coronavirus but it should not be considered as a fool-proof preventative measure. A mask worn in the wrong way or without additional protective measures will be less effective.

Therefore, make sure that you observe social distancing and maintaining good hand hygiene if you want to really protect yourself from contracting the disease.

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