More evidence face masks help curb the spread of the coronavirus has emerged after a study found it reduced infection by up to 75 per cent.
Researchers in Hong Kong studied transmission of the virus between hamsters, with half infected with COVID-19 and the other being healthy.
They analysed various scenarios in which the hamsters cages were either cloaked with face mask material or not.
Although it’s completely different to how humans interact, the researchers said it showed ‘very clearly’ that covering the nose and mouth is hugely effective to mitigate spread.
The study comes after months of conflicting information from world health bodies concerning masks and if the public should wear them.
The British government recently U-turned and encouraged people to wear coverings when social distancing isn’t possible.
It had previously feared that the advice would leave a shortage of surgical masks for healthcare workers.
More proof face masks work to curb the spread of the coronavirus has emerged after a study on hamsters found it reduced infection by up to 75 per cent. Pictured: Commuters wearing face protection on the London Underground on May 20
Although it’s completely different to how humans interact, the researchers said it showed ‘very clearly’ that covering the nose and mouth is hugely effective to mitigate spread. Pictured: Residents wearing a face mask at San Biagio and Santa Maria Immacolata church on May 20, in Codogno, southeast of Milan
The study was released by the department of microbiology at the University of Hong Kong but has not been peer-reviewed or published in a journal yet.
It involved two groups of hamsters – one were infected with COVID-19, some of which were not displaying symptoms, and the other were perfectly healthy.
A fan was placed between the cages to allow for the transmission of respiratory droplets from the infected hamsters’ cage to the other.
THE TRUTH ABOUT FACE MASKS: WHAT STUDIES HAVE SHOWN
Research on how well various types of masks and face coverings varies but, recently, and in light of the pandemic of COVID-19, experts are increasingly leaning toward the notion that something is better than nothing.
A University of Oxford study published on March 30 concluded that surgical masks are just as effective at preventing respiratory infections as N95 masks for doctors, nurses and other health care workers.
It’s too early for their to be reliable data on how well they prevent infection with COVID-19, but the study found the thinner, cheaper masks do work in flu outbreaks.
The difference between surgical or face masks and N95 masks lies in the size of particles that can – and more importantly, can’t – get though the materials.
N95 respirators are made of thick, tightly woven and molded material that fits tightly over the face and can stop 95 percent of all airborne particles, while surgical masks are thinner, fit more loosely, and more porous.
This makes surgical masks much more comfortable to breathe and work in, but less effective at stopping small particles from entering your mouth and nose.
Droplets of saliva and mucous from coughs and sneezes are very small, and viral particles themselves are particularly tiny – in fact, they’re about 20-times smaller than bacteria.
For this reason, a JAMA study published this month still contended that people without symptoms should not wear surgical masks, because there is not proof the gear will protect them from infection – although they may keep people who are coughing and sneezing from infecting others.
But the Oxford analysis of past studies- which has not yet been peer reviewed – found that surgical masks were worth wearing and didn’t provide statistically less protection than N95 for health care workers around flu patients.
However, any face mask is only as good as other health and hygiene practices. Experts universally agree that there’s simply no replacement for thorough, frequent hand-washing for preventing disease transmission.
Some think the masks may also help to ‘train’ people not to touch their faces, while others argue that the unfamiliar garment will just make people do it more, actually raising infection risks.
So what about cloth coverings? Although good quality evidence is lacking, some data suggest that cloth masks may be only marginally (15 per cent) less effective than surgical masks in blocking emission of particles, said Babak Javid, principal investigator at Cambridge University Hospitals wrote in the BMJ on April 9.
He pointed to a study led by Public Health England in 2013 which found wearing some kind of material over the face was fivefold more effective than not wearing masks for preventing a flu pandemic.
The study suggested that a homemade mask ‘should only be considered as a last resort to prevent droplet transmission from infected individuals, but it would be better than no protection’.
When there was no face mask coverings on the cages, two-thirds of the healthy hamsters caught the coronavirus within a week.
In the scenario in which mask barriers were placed only on cages with the infected hamsters, the transmission rate dropped by 75 per cent.
Just over 15 per cent of the healthy hamsters got sick compared to 66 per cent before.
In the scenario where healthy hamsters were shielded with a masked barrier, 33 per cent were infected, showing it was only half as effective.
The researchers added that the hamsters who were infected even with the mask barrier had less of the virus in their bodies when compared to those infected without the masks.
‘The findings implied to the world and the public is that the effectiveness of mask-wearing against the coronavirus pandemic is huge,’ lead author and coronavirus expert Dr Yuen Kwok-yung told a news briefing, according to Sky News.
‘In our hamster experiment, it shows very clearly that if infected hamsters or humans -especially asymptomatic or symptomatic ones – put on masks, they actually protect other people.
‘That’s the strongest result we showed here. Transmission can be reduced by 50 percent when surgical masks are used, especially when masks are worn by infected individuals.’
Dr Kwok-yung said that until a vaccine for he virus is found, social distancing or wearing a mask are the best preventative measure working in tandem.
But it does not stop the spread entirely.
Dr Kwok-yung, who worked on the SARS virus in 2003, said that his team conducted the study world leaders, including the World Health Organisation (WHO), had questioned their effectiveness.
The WHO said there is no evidence masks cut the risk of transmission, while raising concerns there could be a shortage of masks for medical workers if they are bought by the general public.
The leading body acknowledged the virus can be transmitted by people who do not have symptoms.
But still says only two types of people should wear masks: those who are sick and show symptoms, and those who are caring for people who are suspected to have the coronavirus.
Masks are not seen as a reliable protection tool in comparison to hand washing or keeping socially distant from people. They can give a false sense of security that someone is completely protected.
The virus is spread by droplets, which can still enter the mask if it is not fitted well, and contact with contaminated surfaces.
A team from the University of East Anglia (UEA) also concluded there was no strong evidence that face masks can protect healthy people.
Lead author Professor Paul Hunter said: ‘It’s important to remember that we have not been able to look specifically at COVID-19 because there have been no specific studies to date.’
But other academics argue that despite a lack of evidence to show it reduces spreading, there was nothing to be lost in using face masks just in case.
Pictured: US Vice President Mike Pence wearing a face mask on May 19 after previously coming under fire for not wearing one on visits to Mayo Clinic’s facilities in Minnesota
WEAR A MASK ON PUBLIC TRANSPORT OR IN SHOPS WHERE YOU CAN’T SOCIAL DISTANCE
Wear a face mask on public transport or in shops where you can’t social distance, new guidance from May 10 said.
People should wear a face covering on public transport or in shops where social distancing is not always possible, the Government announced.
Official advice released this afternoon said the coverings will help people avoid transmitting the disease to others if they have it without any symptoms.
It added that homemade cloth face-coverings can help reduce the risk, but surgical masks or respirators should continue to be reserved for healthcare workers.
Ministers added that face coverings should not be used by children aged under two or those with respiratory conditions.
People who may find it difficult to manage the masks correctly such as primary age children unassisted are also advised not to wear them.
Officials said the new guidance was being issued in response to there being ‘more movement outside people’s immediate household’ as Britons start returning to work.
While the Prime Minister has insisted that social distancing ‘must be maintained’, he did not mention the use of face coverings during his address to the UK last night.
International researchers, led by the University of Oxford, said: ‘Even limited protection could prevent some transmission of COVID-19 and save lives. Because COVID-19 is such a serious threat, wearing masks in public should be advised.’
The UK government first took the stance that masks were not necessary for the public, which was not in tune with America, where officials dramatically switched their stance overnight.
Ministers came under mounting pressure to change their advice, with Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer arguing face masks would be an ‘inevitable’ part of easing the draconian restrictions.
It finally revised its advice on May 10 to recommend people wear face coverings in confined places where social distancing is difficult. This means it is still voluntary.
Italy had urged citizens to do so more than a month before, and Germans were told to wear coverings in shops and on public transport on April 16.
In France, the government originally said masks were unnecessary, but made it mandatory to wear them on public transport and in secondary schools in the first week of May.
From tomorrow, it is compulsory to wear a face mask in public in Spain.
In Asia, wearing a face mask was pretty standard before the pandemic even existed. It is seen as considerate to keep your nose and mouth covered to protect others from yourself, and irresponsible to not do so.
In some parts of China, you could be arrested or punished for not wearing a mask and people in Singapore can face a fine.
Dr David Nabarro, the UN body’s COVID-19 envoy, has warned people will need to get accustomed to a ‘new reality’ of always wearing a facial covering.
How to make your own coronavirus face mask: Online DIY tutorials detail method for vacuum cleaner bag or T-shirt to create protection that leading scientists say is effective against bug
The worldwide coronavirus pandemic has led to a shortage of protective face masks, leading to a deluge of online tutorials ion how to make your own using a t-shirt or pillowcase.
Homemade masks offer significantly less protection than the N95 medical masks, which are made of a thick, tightly woven material that fits over the face and can stop 95 per cent of all airborne particles.
Public Health England still does not recommend Britons wear face masks, unless in a medical setting.
But there are good reasons to think DIY masks could be effective in tackling the pandemic, as they have been widely used in Hong Kong,Mongolia and South Korea -countries that largely have the disease under control.
MailOnline has investigated how you can make your own face mask using everyday household items such as a t-shirt, kitchen towel or vacuum bags.
How to make a face mask from a t-shirt
A YouTube tutorial by Runa Ray shows how to make a face mask without any need for sewing, using just a plain t-shirt.
First of all you need scissors, pencil and a ruler, and a t-shirt you don’t mind being used to make a face mask.
Cut out a 16′ by 4′ rectangle from the middle of the t-shirt, then fold it in half, and measure four inches on either side.
Then mark the t-shirt with an even number of tassels on each side and use scissors to cut them.
Turn the t-shirt inside out and separate the corner tassels, but tie the remaining ones in-between.
Then with the remaining t-shirt material cut some ear straps using the hem of the shirt.
Attach the straps to the remaining outer tassels and you have yourself a face mask, with no sewing involved, and using an old t-shirt.
A slightly more complicated method has been perfected by researchers from the University of Pittsburgh also managed to design a face mask that could be used if ‘commercial masks’ are not available during a virus outbreak.
A woman wearing a mask walks past a closed shop window display during the pandemic lockdown in Manchester
They used a regular cotton t-shirt, which was boiled for 10 minutes and then air-dried to sterilise the material, but also to shrink it.
The researchers used a marker and ruler to measure out what they wanted to cut and then formed the mask using an outer layer and then eight inner layers covering the nose and mouth.
The mask does not require any sewing, and instead involves it being tied multiple time around the face.
How to make a face mask from vacuum cleaner bags
By following the simple steps in the graphic, you can create your own face mask from a T-Shirt or vacuum cleaner bag,
Even UK politicians have got in on the act, with Gillian Martin, who is MSP for Aberdeenshire East, describing how she made a face mask from vacuum cleaner bags and elastic.
She told the Daily Record: ‘I live in a small village and have been here for over 20 years. I don’t want to worry or offend people when I go out.
‘I started researching what other countries have been doing and came across a chart with the best materials to use to make a mask out of just about anything.’
‘Just below medical material was a hoover bag. I have loads of them lying around and found Hepa-Flow bag that just goes on your Henry hoover’.
The chart the MSP is referring to from a University of Cambridge study which shows the materials that work the best against virus sized particles.
The top three are a surgical mask, vacuum cleaner bag and tea towel.
She added: ‘I cut it up the bag and secured it with elastic. I live with my family of three who have all been self-isolating so I made one for each of us’.
Gillian Martin posted about her mask that she made from a vacuum cleaning bag
‘I made it because I’m nervous of people coming up to me when I’m out walking the dog. I don’t want to have to run away from them.’
Another popular YouTube method shows how to fold up a scarf, using hair ties at either end, to make a simple and easy no-sew mask. The same method can be used with a handkerchief and doesn’t involve any sewing.
How to make a face mask from kitchen towel
For this you need two layers of kitchen towel and one of tissue.
You cut it in half, and then use masking tape on each end to ensure the mask is stiff.
Then you punch holes through either end of the mask and thread elastic bands through the holes.
Some Japanese women have even been posting instructions about how to make a face mask from a braThe method is simple and involves cutting off one cup with scissors and then sewing the bra straps on, so they can be attached to your face.
What types of masks can you buy online and how much do they cost?
This pack of two FFP3 masks is the best selling product for the type of respirator on Amazon
High-grade dust masks now used on NHS frontline: FFP3 face masks cost £40 for two
FFP3 masks are the gold standard for preventing the spread of airborne illnesses in hospitals.
They must fit tightly to the face and have all air drawn through a filter that is embedded in the fabric and catches almost every kind of particle as the air flows through.
They are primarily used as dust masks in the construction industry.
The masks are not widely available to members of the public online.
The top listing on Amazon – made by Wrexham-based company Toolpak – has sold out both on the marketplace and the firm’s own website.
Toolpak’s masks appear to be being sold by a third party for £39.99 for a pack of two on Amazon.
The N95 face mask being sold for £6.99 online is the US equivalent of the FFP2 mask in Europe
3M N95 masks are being sold for £25.99 for a six-pack on Amazon
Silver standard masks used by medical workers in US and UK: N95/FFP2 face mask cost £6.99 each
The N95 face mask is the US equivalent of the FFP2 mask in Europe and is backed by the World Health Organisation as suitable for medical use.
Its filter is not as strong as the FFP3 – it weeds out 95 per cent of particles, as the name suggests – but it is still highly rated for NHS staff.
UK health officials say FFP2 masks are second best to FFP3, and should be used if possible because they have a European seal of approval, but N95, which doesn’t have CE approval, can be used if no FFP2 masks are available.
Masks of this grade are more readily available online from sellers in China.
The Amazon bestseller is a N95 mask sold by HJHY, a company based in China. They cost £6.99 but may not be delivered for a month or more. 43 per cent of people who bought the mask rated it just one star out of five.
Another product in Amazon’s bestseller category is a £25.99 six-pack of N95 masks made by 3M and sold by Hpparty, another company based in China. Delivery dates start in mid-May and there are no customer reviews.
These disposable face mask covers offer some protection to users against respiratory diseases
Disposable surgical masks still used in most NHS hospitals: Ten for £9.39
The best known type of medical face mask, known as a surgical mask, is still being widely used by the NHS.
Doctors, nurses and healthcare workers are now instructed to wear these types of mask as a minimum at all times when working near confirmed or suspected coronavirus patients.
They are considered effective enough for most staff outside of intensive care or who are not inserting or removing breathing equipment.
Although they don’t have built-in air filters, the masks can stop droplets of liquid, which are how the majority of the COVID-19 viruses are spread.
The best-selling product of this type under ‘masks and respirators’ on Amazon today is a ten-piece set of disposable face covers which costs £9.39.
The mask – with an average review rating of 3.5 stars – has an inner layer of cotton fabric, a middle layer of medical filter paper and an outer layer of waterproof fabric. It is sold by a company in London and delivers in early May.
Another top seller is a pack of 20 costing £7.97 and shipping from a company called T-Shell in Guangdong, China.
These types of masks are typically not reusable and should only be used for one day at a time.
Cycling masks can also provide people with a layer of protection from airborne particles
This mask is for sale for £11.99 on Amazon
Cycling masks designed to filter out pollution but with potential to stop viruses: £7.57 for six
While cycling masks remain untested regarding coronavirus, they are intended to provide a layer of protection from airborne particles.
They are designed to stop cyclists breathing in pollution when they ride through areas with heavy traffic.
They contain an air filter for this purpose, but are not regulated to the same standard as medical face masks so provide varying levels of protection.
High quality cycling masks, such as those made by the well-known UK brand Cambridge Mask Co. cost upwards of £20 and are reusable. The company has now sold out of all stock but is taking pre-orders.
Other cycling masks are available on Amazon, with the site’s bestseller a £7.57 pack of six from a company called Diyii in China. The firm says the masks are good for those with sensitive skin allergies and can be washed repeatedly, and are also suitable for camping, running, travel and climbing.
Another top seller on the marketplace is a reusable mask sold by the Chinese firm KZKR-EU which costs £11.99 per mask and claims it will deliver within two weeks.
This valved gas mask is claimed to match up to the highest filtration standard
This rubber-sealed, military-looking mask is for sale for £29.87 on Amazon
The dramatic option: Respirator gas mask costing £34.86 for one
Perhaps the most dramatic-looking option of all masks is the gas mask respirator.
These are generally used by people spraying paint or other chemicals which it would be dangerous to inhale, or working in hazardous environments.
The masks have built-in valves fitted with filters which may be able to keep out droplets carrying the coronavirus.
The top listing on Amazon is a mask costing £34.86 and sold by SafeYear, a company based in Shanghai, China. The mask is rated FFP3, meaning it would be suitable for even the riskiest medical procedures.
Another top listed option on the site is a full-face rubber-sealed black mask which costs £29.87.
It is sold by the company Maikoler, based in China, and says it would be delivered by the end of May. The military-looking contraption has no customer ratings.
A woman in New York is pictured wearing a makeshift cloth facemask
A man in Fife, Scotland, shocked shoppers when he turned up at Asda wearing a mask made from a sanitary towel
T-shirts, bandanas and even sanitary towels: Homemade face masks may offer protection, too
Many people are opting to make masks at home using cloth or other materials – some have even been pictured using sanitary towels.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the US recommends people use cloth face coverings when they go out in public and even has a how-to guide for people to make their own out of t-shirts or bandanas.
The intention of these is not specifically to protect people from catching the virus but to prevent the spread of it by encouraging such widespread use that people who are infected but don’t know about it wear something that blocks the viruses being expelled on their breath.
However, European researchers have suggested these may not be effective and up to 90 per cent of particles can make their way through the fabric.
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control said rates of illness were much higher among healthcare staff using masks made out of cloth instead of surgical masks.
It said: ‘Altogether, common fabric cloth masks are not considered protective against respiratory viruses and their use should not be encouraged.
‘In the context of severe personal protective equipment (PPE) shortages, and only if surgical masks or respirators are not available, homemade cloth masks (e.g. scarves) are proposed as a last-resort interim solution by the US CDC until availability of standard PPE is restored.’
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