Does wearing protective masks really reduce the risk of contracting COVID-19? This issue continues to be the subject of heated debates.
The World Health Organization has repeatedly pointed out that these masks can save many lives and are one of our strongest weapons in the fight against the deadly disease.
CDC updates guidance on best masks to protect against COVID-19 https://t.co/KaWYhV2pbw
— CBS News (@CBSNews) January 17, 2022
However, some people disagree with wearing masks, even believing that they are more harmful to their health.
What do the facts show?
All the data available to scientists shows the same thing – the masks are limiting the spread of COVID-19.
However, it is important to distinguish between different types of protective equipment. One of the most used are the so-called medical masks (also called surgical), which are disposable masks. Their main function is to protect us from contact with small droplets that contain microbes, as well as larger harmful particles that we can inhale. Doctors advise them to wear them close to their faces and to cover their noses and mouths tightly. It’s important to note that they don’t increase the amount of carbon dioxide we breathe.
Another type of mask that experts recommend is KN95. They offer a significantly higher level of protection as they filter both larger and smaller particles in the air (according to scientists, they capture around 95% of these particles).
However, authorities in several countries warn to be careful when buying such masks, as many of their imitations are sold that are far from high quality and do not meet the same standards.
N95 and KN95 mask prices have doubled or even tripled, frustrating consumers worried about the Omicron variant of Covid-19 https://t.co/geKJuXOYEG
— Bloomberg (@business) January 12, 2022
The rapid spread of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 has prompted a number of experts to recommend the use of N95 masks. They offer a high level of protection, are considered medical grade and are disposable in hospital – doctors are required to change them as they can spread infection from one patient to another.
Similar to the N95, the masks with European certification are FFP2, which have a slightly lower filtering (the difference between the two types is insignificant). Scientists add that the longer we wear the N95 mask, the more bacteria get trapped inside. A good way to disinfect it is to leave it in the sun for a few hours.
One of the most controversial issues is the extent to which cloth masks protect against COVID-19.
Scientists are finding that those that have multiple layers offer the best protection. They catch the droplets that we excrete when we speak, cough or sneeze, as well as those that are at risk when inhaled.
Cloth masks, like surgical masks, do not increase the amount of carbon dioxide we absorb.
And what do we know about the history of masks?
In 1897, the famous German bacteriologist Karl Fluge discovered that the microorganisms in the droplets expelled from the respiratory tract were a means of transmitting diseases. That same year, Polish surgeon Johan Mikulich-Radetski advised doctors to put gauze over their nose and mouth during surgeries. Since then, scientists have developed increasingly reliable protective masks.
— NBC News (@NBCNews) 3. April 2020
Here are some more interesting facts about her history:
The practice of wearing such masks is much older than people think.
According to historians, the earliest evidence is approximately 2,000 years old. Roman philosopher Pliny the Elder used a filter mask made from an animal’s bladder while crushing cinnabar (mercury sulfide), a poisonous mineral used in the fine arts.
Protective masks were also worn in China as early as the 13th century during the Yuen Dynasty.
Evidence of this can be found in the works of the famous traveler Marco Polo. He says that the emperor’s subordinates covered their mouths and noses to avoid contaminating the food they served him.
The classic explanation for the Black Death plague is wrong, scientists say https://t.co/KXt4WHUjPl
– Die Washington Post (@washingtonpost) January 17, 2018
The outbreak of the largest plague epidemic in the history of Europe in the 14th century – the so-called Black Death – caused many people to use protective masks made of different products.
Another epidemic in various parts of the old continent in the 17th century led to the invention of “plague masks” by the French physician Charles de Lorme.
They covered the whole face and had long beaks in which aromatic herbs and essential oils were often placed.
The genius inventor, architect, and artist Leonardo da Vinci put a water-soaked towel over his mouth to protect himself from the toxic chemicals in the paint and plaster he was working with.
Doctors still recommend this method in the event of a fire to protect the lungs from dangerous smoke.
Louis Pasteur’s discovery of airborne bacteria in 1861 made people realize how easily they could be infected with certain dangerous diseases.
As a result, doctors began encouraging the wearing of cotton masks. Gradually they became a fashion accessory. Many women wore lace veils with the idea of protecting themselves from dangerous particles.
Often overlooked in western countries, Dr. Wu Lien-Teh recognized in world history as a pioneer of public health. He helped change the course of an early 20th-century plague epidemic and promoted the use of masks. https://t.co/PxKi6Naqqb
– Die New York Times (@nytimes) 20. May 2021
A plague epidemic broke out in northern China in the early 20th century.
To stop the rapid spread of the disease, local doctors began wearing special masks made of gauze and cotton. They had ribbons that they attached to their ears. It is believed that this is the prototype of the masks that are still used in medicine.
In 1905, the famous American doctor Alice Hamilton published the results of a study on the amount of bacteria that patients with scarlet fever expel when they cough.
She also looked at bacteria released by healthy hospital staff when they speak or sneeze. Her conclusion was that protective masks should always be worn during operations. Hamilton’s recommendations are still followed today.
During the global Spanish flu pandemic of 1918, wearing protective masks became one of the most important ways to contain the dangerous disease.
In some American cities, the measure even became mandatory, which led to protests. The data available to the scientists shows that the number of victims of the Spanish flu was lower there than in settlements where wearing masks was not mandatory.
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