Posted 06/03/2020 in others

Coronavirus: is wearing a protective mask an effective measure?

Coronavirus: is wearing a protective mask an effective measure?

Due to the ongoing epidemic panic, mask manufacturers and resellers are struggling to keep up with demand. But the question we must ask ourselves is are these so-called “barrier” measures against the SARS-CoV-2 virus effective to protect us from the virus?



Since Saturday February 29, France has become one of the main centers of coronavirus in Europe, with 178 cases reported since the end of January. Among them, twelve people are cured, three died and 116 are hospitalized, including nine people in serious condition, according to the latest assessment announced Sunday evening by the Ministry of Health.


When should you wear a protective mask?

As recalled by the Minister of Health, Olivier Véran, the wearing of the mask is recommended only for people who have stayed in areas identified as "at risk" - China, Singapore, Iran, South Korea, Lombardy, Veneto - and this "during the fifteen days following their return". The wearing of a sanitary mask "is also urged for the sick in order to avoid the spread of the disease by air," said the minister. However, he insisted:


"The wearing of a mask by the non-sick population who has not traveled to risk areas is not recommended because its effectiveness has not been demonstrated. "


"We are not in dealing with a virus that floats in the air" but that "is transmitted by people who sneeze, who blow their nose and shake your hand, so it's really contact," said, for his part, the director of health, Jérôme Salomon.


In early March, the government slightly changed its recommendations by recommending that the mask be worn only for people with symptoms.



What types of masks exist?

There are two main categories of masks, details the ministry of health on its site:


Surgical masks: not very effective in protecting oneself.


They are the most basic and the most common. They protect people with whom the mask wearer comes into contact - those around him, but also other people around him in public places - when he coughs or sneezes, for example. It should be thrown away as soon as it is soiled. These masks do not directly protect their wearers and are therefore ineffective in non-sick people who want to avoid contamination. These masks should be discarded as soon as they get wet or dirty.



Respiratory protection masks (type FFP, for Filtering Facepiece Particles): effective, but with a limited duration of use.


These more efficient masks consist of a face piece and an effective filtering device for bacteria and aerosols. This device protects against possible contamination of one third through the respiratory system.


There are several types of models, ranked according to the degree of filtration:


78% of the particles for FFP1;

92% of the particles for FFP2;

98% of the particles for FFP3.


The FFP2 mask, also called the "duck mask", remains the standard protection in the event of an epidemic. It has been used against severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), among others. It is recommended for people at major risk of exposure, such as healthcare professionals in contact with the sick. Its protection period varies between three and eight hours.


To summarize: surgical masks are intended for people who are sick or have symptoms so that they do not contaminate those around them. FFP2 masks must be given to nursing staff, who are much more exposed to the risk of contamination. Note that anti-pollution masks are not effective in protecting against SARS-CoV-2.


Where to buy the masks?

Pharmacies remain the most reliable place to purchase masks. On the Internet, you must be vigilant and check that the masks comply with the standards of health authorities.


How much does a mask cost?

Normally, the price of surgical masks varies between 20 and 50 cents per unit, but since the start of the coronavirus epidemic, it has soared and more than tripled. FFP type respiratory protection masks are more expensive: for FFP2 models, prices vary between a few euros and 20 euros per unit on average; for FFP3 models, you must pay several tens of euros per unit. Like surgical masks, FFP protective masks have undergone considerable price increases since the start of the Covid-19 epidemic.


Is there a risk of shortage in masks?

Out of stock or extended lead times… Faced with the spread of SARS-CoV-2, manufacturers of protective masks, as well as their resellers, are struggling to cope with an exploding demand, in full psychosis. In some pharmacies, signs of the lack of masks have started to appear. The Pharmaceutical Distribution Union confirms that several of its members are out of supply of surgical masks. To add to the supply difficulties, China, the epicenter of the epidemic, is itself the world's largest producer of masks.


Authorities are discussing the to issue instructions to pharmacists so that they no longer dispense masks, except with a doctor's prescription. As Olivier Véran points out: "In an epidemic situation, protecting yourself is also protecting others, and it is the small gestures that make great protection.




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