A new study conducted by a collaborative team of researchers in Hong Kong recently showed that surgical masks are seventy-five percent effective in controlling the transmissions of the SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
More precisely, the scientists discovered that the airborne transmission of the virus via an infected patient was stopped significantly after wearing a face mask.
Dr. Yuen Kwok-yung, who is a microbiologist at the Hong Kong University and the leading author of the study said “The findings implied to the world and the public is that the effectiveness of mask-wearing against the coronavirus pandemic is huge,”
Dr. Yuen had also helped in discovering Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome in 2003, which is an infection caused by another coronavirus. The study conducted by him is, so far, first of its kind and has proved that the health authorities’ instructions regarding face covering during the pandemic are correct.
According to the team of researchers, the primary purpose of the study was to highlight the proven effectiveness of wearing masks during a health crisis and its fundamental role in stopping coronavirus spread since the practice was questioned by many people and even a number of health experts, including those at the World Health Organization.
Research from the past on the use of face coverings during health epidemics has only looked at the rates of cases of the infection in different areas and cross-checked it with the prevalence of wearing masks in those areas.
While the research did show that areas in which people wore masks frequently had a lower rate of cases, it did not directly check the effectiveness of the masks.
The researchers in the new study conducted lab experiments on hamsters. The hamsters were placed in two separate cages and tested in three different conditions.
Firstly, the group of hamsters in the cage was exposed to coronavirus after which they developed the infection. Then, a fan was used to direct the air from the cage of infected hamsters towards the cage with healthy hamsters.
In a time period of merely six to seven days, two-third of all the hamsters were diagnosed with the coronavirus infection. The experimented was then repeated but with a face mask on the infected hamsters’ cage to check for any difference in coronavirus spread.
The researchers found that the mask helped in reducing the infection rate to around fifteen percent. In addition, the rate decreased further to thirty-five percent when the researchers placed a mask on both of the cages in the third experiment.
Secondly, it should also be noted that hamsters that had been infected while having a mask on their cage were seen to have a fewer number of the virus in their bodies in comparison with those who got infected without a mask.
On a press conference held last Saturday, Dr. Yuen stated that the experiment confirmed that wearing a mask is a mandatory step for people infected with the virus as well as those without the infection as it can cut down the transmission rate of the virus to fifty percent.
The masks were especially effective when they were worn by infected hamsters which mean that infected people should always wear a mask. However, since many of the cases of the coronavirus infection are asymptomatic, every person should wear a mask at the moment for protection.
Dr. Yuen added that a coronavirus vaccine is likely to take a lot of time to develop which is why people should take all of the preventive measures recommended to control the spread of COVID-19.
Since there is no vaccine, the only option to stay safe includes social distancing and following guidelines from health authorities carefully.