Both surgical masks and cotton were found to be ineffective in preventing the spread of SARS-CoV-2 from coughing patients with COVID-19. A study conducted at two hospitals in Seoul, South Korea, found that when COVID-19 patients cough on both types of masks, virus droplets are released into the environment and the surface of the external mask. A brief research report is published at Annals of Internal Medicine.
During respiratory viral infections, facial masks are thought to prevent transmission, so health care experts recommend their use during the COVID-19 pandemic. With the lack of N95 and surgical masks, which have been proven to prevent the spread of influenza virus, cotton masks have become a concern as a replacement. However, it is not known whether surgical masks or cotton pads worn by patients with COVID-19 prevent environmental contamination.
Researchers from Asan Medical Center, Ulsan Medical University, Seoul, South Korea instructed 4 patients with COVID-19 to cough 5 times each in a petri dish while wearing the following mask sequence: without mask, surgical mask, cotton mask, and again without mask. The mask surface is wiped with aseptic Dacron strokes in the following order: the outer surface of the surgical mask, the inner surface of the surgical mask, the outer surface of the cotton mask, and the inner surface of the cotton mask. The researchers found SARS COV-2 on all surfaces. These findings suggest that recommendations for wearing face masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19 may not be effective.
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