Dubai: The need for double masking to stop the spread of COVID-19 infections in the community is a much talked about subject.
Recently, based on empirical studies conducted, the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) said it was not just a single mask, but wearing a tight-fitting mask or a double mask that could ward off the COVID-19 virus with a success rate of 95 per cent.
In a simulated breathing experiment, it was seen that while the surgical three-ply mask could block infection transmission by 42 per cent, wearing a cloth mask above that could provide an additional 44 per cent block to any virus. Therefore, instead of one mask, the CDC has recommended that people use a surgical three-ply mask and upon that, a top layer of a cloth mask.
The CDC has also stated that vaccianted people need not quarantine if they are exposed to a COVID-19 postiive patient. So the focus lies on mass vacciantion which is a proramme that continues to roll out worldwide in our race towards achieving herd immunity from SARS Cov-2 virus. But until that target is met, facemasks will be an essential form of social gear.
UAE doctors too say wearing face masks, besides maintaining social distancing and using hand santisers, remains an integral part of the ‘new normal’ in our lives.
How double masks help
Dr Dirar Abdullah, Consultant Internal Medicine Specialist and Chairman of Internal Medicine at the Prime Hospital, Dubai, said it was premature to think we could get rid of masks anywhere in the near future. “Masks are here to stay. A mask acts as a simple barrier to help prevent your respiratory droplets from reaching others. Studies show that masks reduce the spray of droplets when worn over the nose and mouth. One might recall, about a year ago, international health bodies had actually discouraged the use of masks except in the case of frontline workers. However, studies carried out subsequently demonstrated that wearing a mask had over 70 per cent impact in reducing transmission. Now the CDC guidelines are talking about double masking. Basically, what this means is that people must wear masks that have metal bands that fit around the bridge of the nose and do not leave any loose crevices around the nose, chin and cheeks. Either that or wear an additional cloth mask over the three ply. In case of health care workers, it is advisable to wear one N-95 mask which is tight-fitting and wear a face shield to prevent any infectious droplets getting in through the eyes.”
He added, “The masks are such an effective strategy that we are not going to get rid of these anytime soon in the future. Besides that, everyone must follow other protocols such as maintaining social distancing and hand santisation. Together with this protocol and the vaccination drive, we will be able to get control over the pandemic.’
High rate of transmission
Dr Atul Aundhekar, GP and CEO of Avivo Health Care explained, “The new variants of the COVID-19 virus are less virulent but rate of transmission is very high. This infection spreads when a molecule of the virus is released by an infected person during a cough, sneeze, loud laughter or talk and the respiratory droplets get suspended in the air and travel to the next person and enter his respiratory tract.” But double masks act as a second barrier that effectively block anything that may have escaped through a loose mask or a thin mask. Dr Aundhekar continued, “While the single molecule of the previous variant was the size of 10 nanogram, the new variants have molecules finer than 10 nanograms that can enter through loose crevices around the mask.”
Dr Antony Fauci, White House health advisor, recently reiterated that masks are mandatory for people who have received both doses of vaccination. In a tweet during an online session, Dr Fauci said, “What vaccine trials have shown is that these vaccines are about 95 per cent effective at preventing symptomatic COVID-19 infections in people. However, we do not have enough data to say confidently that vaccines can prevent transmission of virus. Even those who are vaccinated might still be able to spread the virus to vulnerable people. Therefore even though you might not feel sick and have the two doses, it is still advisable to keep wearing the face mask.”
Chances of re-infection
Dr Aundhekar pointed out that it was important for people to keep their facemasks on, as there were cases where even after one round of COVID-19 infection, people have been re-infected. “Patients typically form anti-bodies for three months but in many cases we have seen people test positive again. There have been cases of people reporting infection after receiving the first or even second dose of the vaccine.”
He added that many people lowered their guard and moved around and suffered exposure to the virus. Three months after COVID-19 infections, they are as vulnerable as any other individual. It is also possible that people with low or compromised immunity might suffer a second bout. Then there are those who do not develop enough anti-bodies to ward off a direct infection even after two vaccinations. Besides, all vaccines do not have a 100 per cent efficacy and the best defense against all this is to continue wearing face masks,” explained Dr Aundhekar
Should children wear masks?
Dr Noobi Koya, Specialist Paediatrician, Canadian Specialist Hospital, Dubai said that she advised every child above the age of two to wear mask. “Every child above the age of two must wear a mask to prevent transmission. Children younger than two years have very narrow airways and may not be able to tell their parents when their breathing is obstructed due to the mask and must be exempted from wearing masks. However, it is recommended that all children over the age of two must wear a facemask that properly fits their face. That is because although the virus is known to be largely being asymptomatic in children, it affects adults differently. These children who might have mild or no symptoms at all can become carriers and transmit the infection to the vulnerable older people around them such as their parents or grandparents,” cautioned Dr Kooya.
Facemask dos and don’ts for children
• Do not put a mask around face of an infant below two years
• If your child is above two buy a mask size that fits tightly. There must be no gaps between the chin, cheeks or nose.
• Do not let child wear a size that fits an adult. A loose facemask is equivalent to wearing no facemask at all.
• You can chose a single cloth facemask with a double layer for your child.
• Teach your child not to touch the outside of the facemask when it’s on.
• Check if your child is breathing easily with the facemask
Facemask dos and don’ts for adults
• Choose a regular three-ply surgical mask, but make sure it fits.
• Choose three-ply surgical masks with metal strips that can be tightened around the bridge of the nose
• Use a cloth face mask over the three ply non-woven surgical face mask for high protection
• If double masking is an issue, choose just a single N-95 mask and secure it tightly
• Never wear a mask that uncovers your nose. The mask must cover your nostrils.
• Observe social distance, wash your hands regularly