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COVID 19: Can surgical masks or respirators prevent Corona Virus?

By Sparkian Sahaj Sabharwal

Contributory Author for Spark Igniting Minds

The world is suffering from the deadly infection of Coronavirus. The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the infection as ‘pandemic’. The early symptoms of this deadly infection are high fever, shortness of breath, tiredness, and dry cough. So, the entire world is under lockdown to break the chain of COVID-19 with certain precautionary steps to ensure the safety of all. The contemporary ways to sanitize oneself are the 20 seconds formula of hand wash or using disinfectant containing at least 60% alcohol, avoid touching surfaces and handshakes, and no unnecessary contacts. The use of mask and covering face using a napkin or using the elbow while coughing, and disposing of the napkin would add an added advantage.

We all know that sanitizers containing good quality alcohol can kill most of the germs, bacteria, and viruses including the fatal Coronavirus. In research, it was found that the Coronavirus can survive for 3 days (72 hours approx.) on surfaces like steel or plastic.

Now, the question arises whether any face masks or covering mouth with any cloth helps to prevent Coronavirus from invading our body?

Firstly, I want to let you know that no mask can provide 100% safety from Corona Virus. There are different types of masks available in the market and most common of them are Surgical masks and Respirators.

They act as a barrier to prevent the foreign body from entering our body, but the main difference between them is that Surgical masks are used only to prevent dust particles or large particle droplets that enter through our nose or mouth while Respirators can prevent vapors, airborne microorganisms, fumes or particulate matter that can enter through nose or mouth.

But as we know that the virus can enter our body through eyes also so the person wearing spectacles or goggles can help prevent Covid19 to enter the body to some extent.

As spectacles or goggles are left open from its sides so the virus can reach our eyes easily. Hence, it is advised to stay at home, and take precautionary steps while stepping out of the home. The frontline workers including police, media persons, essential service providers, and sweepers need to wear face shield along with N95 masks to safeguard themselves.

Surgical masks are mostly used by people who are not into any essential services as these are not designed to protect the wearer from breathing in airborne bacteria or viruses. Coronavirus is smaller than the PM 2.5 cutoff but bigger than some regular dust particles and gases. These masks can be used by a person with a weak immune system or suffering from chronic health diseases. Persons dealing with severe respiratory or breathing issues are more prone to get infected from coronavirus, hence it is advisable for the infected person to use a face mask in order to protect others from getting infected. The use of masks is also recommended to healthy people from getting infected. Surgical masks are of three types - 2-layered surgical mask, 3-layered surgical mask, and a 6-layered surgical mask.

The protection also depends on the number of layers, more number of layers contribute towards more protection. A 3-layered mask is better than a 2-layered mask. The cost of a 3-layered mask is also higher than a 2-layered mask. While the 6-layered masks are best as it can protect us from some of the viruses but cannot protect from SARS CoV-2 to enter the body. This type of mask is loose-fitting and viruses can easily enter through the opening sides. One more drawback is that it does not have any particular side from which a person can wear it. So as a human it's common to make mistakes and use different side to wear while reusing. Keeping it anywhere after using can spread the risk of the virus at that particular place and lack of knowledge of its proper method of wearing would enable the virus to enter the body. Also, the outer layer of the mask could impact and accidental touching can lead to the novel coronavirus entering our body.

As mostly surgical masks tend to be disposable, it gets wet due to water vapors generated during respiration, which means that they need to be replaced with a new mask or washable 6-layered mask. Washing it with hot water at 60o C with a disinfectant helps to kill the germs and can enable in reusing them.

Respirators are used by health professionals as they are getting in contact with an infected person quite often. These are at risk of getting contaminated by an infected person. They need to use it along with the face shield to be more secure from the Coronavirus. The N95 mask is the most common respirator consisting of filters that can prevent 95% i.e. 0.3-micron airborne particles. It is a type of mechanical filter respirator and is better than any surgical mask. The respirator is tight-fitting and has no opening, it protects in a better way. It protects us from most of the viruses which enter from mouth or nose openings and protects against SARS CoV-2 to a small extent. When someone around us coughs or sneezes then the germs or droplets exhaled can stick on a person's clothes or long hair especially in women, so the hair must be covered with a cloth while going out and changing clothes after coming back to home is recommended. For men too, keeping a long bushy beard and facial hair are also prone to Coronavirus, so the best way is to avoid going out or to keep short or no beard on the face or clean it after every trip outside. It contains a valve that releases unfiltered air when the wearer breathes out, hence the spread cannot be stopped just by using a respirator.

So along with respirator, using a sanitizer is a must, along with the habit of cleaning our hands from time to time. A respirator cannot be reused and after a particular time and period of usage, it becomes difficult for us to breathe through it indicating that it is time to replace or dispose of after use. Most of the doctors and nurses who are treating the Corona patients use surgical masks, face shields, Personal Protective Equipments (PPE) kits, and respirators to get the best protection. No doubt, wearing them for whole day wearing can cause skin irritation and problems especially in the summer season, discomfort due to sweat on the human body. Still to save lives and to contribute to the nation, the Corona Warriors are doing their best to keep us safe during this crucial period.

Therefore, for the common people, the best way is isolation and social distancing. Mask is better than no mask. A common man must keep physical distance from everyone and use sanitizers to kill the microorganisms on hands and wrist. In fact, if we apply some sanitizer over the mask before using then the germs which stick will be killed instantly and the mask will be more risk-free. And if a person is having any symptoms of COVID-19, then he must contact the health care team or go to a hospital for a checkup.

As prevention is better than cure, all things must be kept in mind to fight this virus. If tested positive than he can get proper treatment and be cured. Either the person should have good immunity or should take healthy foods for boosting the immune system, for example, citrus fruits, broccoli, garlic, ginger, spinach, curd, and almonds are best immunity boosters. Drinking plenty of water every day also helps in keeping our body fit. Immunity system helps in recovery.

If we, the common people, maintain social distancing and use just any cloth mask or scarf or just simple 3-layered or 6-layered cloth, it is enough. If we follow all the precautionary measures then there will be no problem.

That's why Stay Home, Stay Safe, Stay Healthy and Stay Fit and the world will soon defeat this Coronavirus.

- Sahaj Sabharwal

About the Author

He loves writing poems and thoughts. He lives in Jammu city, Jammu and Kashmir, India. His date of birth is 17th March 2002. He has been awarded many awards in poem writing at State level, National and international level. 

He was also selected to be invited for the INTERNATIONAL WRITERS MEETING IN TARIJA and HUNGARY, EUROPE. He was awarded the INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMA IN WRITING and INTERNATIONAL MERIT CERTIFICATE IN WRITING and was PUBLISHED by THE YOUNG WRITERS ASSOCIATION IN UK and RECEIVED  "CERTIFICATE OF PUBLICATION FROM UK". He was also awarded the 'India Star Proud Award' for his appreciable work and He is the author of the BOOK -: " Poems By Sahaj Sabharwal "

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