Thursday, March 19, 2020

Masks in the time of Coronavirus

Let's talk masks for a second. First of all, I am a PhD-packing microbiologist at Stanford and I consulted with a Stanford nurse regarding the fabric masks.
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N95 mask - can protect against coronavirus if worn properly
SAVE THESE FOR OUR HEALTHCARE WORKERS!
The first picture is an example of an n95 mask. These are the only masks that can prevent you from breathing viral particles. It blocks 95% of very tiny particles. It only works when worn correctly when it forms a seal around your face. Healthcare workers need these and they are in short supply and quickly running out.
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Surgical mask - will NOT prevent infection,
but helps limit spread of germs if wearer is sick.
Healthcare institutions in the US are also running out of these.
The second photo is a disposable surgical mask. If you are sick, these help stopping the spread of virus particles and bacteria (when you cough or sneeze, this mask will trap the particles). They also need to be worn properly, and are meant to be thrown away after use. IMPORTANT: these masks will NOT prevent your from catching novel coronavirus. The WILL limit the spread of novel coronavirus if you are infected.
The third photo is an example of a fabric mask. This mask operates under the same principles of the surgical mask and can help keep you from infecting others if you are sick (or an asymptomatic carrier of novel coronavirus). It is likely not as good as the surgical mask at absorbing particles you exhale, but it will do some good. IMPORTANT: these masks will NOT prevent your from catching novel coronavirus. The WILL limit the spread of novel coronavirus if you are infected. They NEED to be washed with soap and hot water after every use or virion particles can remain active. The more layers of fabric, the more particles are likely to get stopped. Crochet masks have lots of holes where particles can get though, so I'd recommend a fabric mask that you wash regularly if you go this route.
Extra benefit of wearing a fabric mask: people are more likely to keep the recommended 6 feet distance from you. 😷
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Example homemade mask. Will NOT prevent infection,
but offers some benefits of surgical mask, with the additional benefit that
people will stay the f*ck away from you in public
MYTH: Masks are not a 'breeding ground' for the novel coronavirus. Viruses are not 'alive' on their own, although they can remain active in the air for a few hours and on surfaces for a few days. They need their hosts (humans for novel coronavirus) in order to replicate and spread. So, yeah, social distance it up!
Let's do our best to stop helping the virus spread! Now is the time to shelter in place as much as humanly possible. I am hunkering down for a month and then I will re-evaluate the situation and see. We need to all do whatever we can.

FYI: I have made this post public on my personal Facebook page (Heidi Arjes) - please ask any questions thre or in the comment box below. 


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