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Face masks effectively limit the probability of SARS-CoV-2 transmission

Face masks effectively limit the probability of SARS-CoV-2 transmission

The effectiveness of masks in preventing the transmission of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 has been debated since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. One important question is whether masks are effective despite the forceful expulsion of respiratory matter during coughing and sneezing. Cheng et al. convincingly show that most people live in conditions in which the airborne virus load is low. The probability of infection changes nonlinearly with the amount of respiratory matter to which a person is exposed. If most people in the wider community wear even simple surgical masks, then the probability of an encounter with a virus particle is even further limited. In indoor settings, it is impossible to avoid breathing in air that someone else has exhaled, and in hospital situations where the virus concentration is the highest, even the best-performing masks used without other protective gear such as hazmat suits will not provide adequate protection.To get more news about surgical mask supplier, you can visit official website.

Airborne transmission by droplets and aerosols is important for the spread of viruses. Face masks are a well-established preventive measure, but their effectiveness for mitigating severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) transmission is still under debate. We show that variations in mask efficacy can be explained by different regimes of virus abundance and are related to population-average infection probability and reproduction number. For SARS-CoV-2, the viral load of infectious individuals can vary by orders of magnitude. We find that most environments and contacts are under conditions of low virus abundance (virus-limited), where surgical masks are effective at preventing virus spread. More-advanced masks and other protective equipment are required in potentially virus-rich indoor environments, including medical centers and hospitals. Masks are particularly effective in combination with other preventive measures like ventilation and distancing.

Airborne transmission is one of the main pathways for the transmission of respiratory viruses, including the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) (1). Wearing face masks has been widely advocated to mitigate transmission. Masks are thought to protect people in two ways: (i) source control, reducing the emission and spread of respiratory viruses through airborne droplets and aerosols, and (ii) wearer protection, reducing the inhalation of airborne respiratory viruses.

The effectiveness of masks, however, is still under debate. Compared with N95 or FFP2 respirators, which have very low particle penetration rates (~5%), surgical and similar masks exhibit higher and more variable penetration rates (~30 to 70%) (2, 3). Given the large number of particles emitted upon respiration and especially upon sneezing or coughing (4), the number of respiratory particles that may penetrate masks is substantial, which is one of the main reasons for doubts about their efficacy in preventing infections. Moreover, randomized clinical trials have shown inconsistent or inconclusive results, with some studies reporting only a marginal benefit or no effect of mask use (5, 6). Thus, surgical and similar masks are often considered to be ineffective. On the other hand, observational data show that regions or facilities with a higher percentage of the population wearing masks have better control of COVID-19 (7–9). So how are we to explain these contrasting results and apparent inconsistencies?

In this work, we develop a quantitative model of airborne virus exposure that can explain these contrasting results and provide a basis for quantifying the efficacy of face masks. We show that mask efficacy strongly depends on airborne virus abundance. On the basis of direct measurements of SARS-CoV-2 in air samples and population-level infection probabilities, we find that the virus abundance in most environments is sufficiently low for masks to be effective in reducing airborne transmission.

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