Seoul: Both surgical and cotton masks were found to be ineffective for preventing the dissemination of SARS-CoV-2 (coronavirus) from the coughs of patients with COVID-19, according to a new study.
The study, published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, conducted at two hospitals in Seoul, South Korea, found that when COVID-19 patients coughed into either type of mask, droplets of virus were released to the environment and external mask surface.
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During respiratory viral infection, face masks are thought to prevent transmission, leading health care experts to recommend their use during the COVID-19 pandemic.
With a shortage of both N95 and surgical masks, which have been shown to prevent the spread of influenza virus, cotton masks have gained interest as a substitute.
However, it is not known if masks worn by patients with COVID-19 prevent contamination of the environment.
Researchers from University of Ulsan College of Medicine in South Korea instructed four patients with COVID-19 to cough five times each onto a petri dish while wearing the following sequence of masks: no mask, surgical mask, cotton mask, and again with no mask.
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Mask surfaces were swabbed with aseptic Dacron swabs in the following sequence: the outer surface of a surgical mask, the inner surface of a 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 to wear face masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19 may not be effective.
"In conclusion, both surgical and cotton masks seem to be ineffective in preventing the dissemination of SARS–CoV-2 from the coughs of patients with COVID-19 to the environment and external mask surface," the researchers noted.
(With Inputs From IANS)