Masks for the Protection of Others, Not the Wearers

Only a few months ago, experts said face masks do not protect the people wearing them, but do protect others.

But, a new WHO study shows a face mask may give the wearer more protection from the C-19 coronavirus than previously thought.

In view of inconsistent guidelines by various organizations based on limited information, our findings provide some clarification and have implications for multiple stakeholders,” the study’s authors wrote. “The risk for infection is highly dependent on distance to the individual infected and the type of face mask and eye protection worn.

The analysis cautioned that while masks and face shields do not give total protection from C-19, frequent hand-washing is equally as important, masks keep people from touching their faces,  which slows the spread of viruses and bacteria, and are also helpful when social distancing becomes difficult.

This new information is different from earlier medical advice. In May, experts said that cloth face coverings mostly protect others, but not the people wearing them.

The World Health Organization study shows only indirect evidence that cloth masks protect the wearer from the illness, said Dr. Raed Dweik, chair of the respiratory institute at the Cleveland Clinic.

The analysis cautioned that masks, social distancing and face shields do not give total protection from C-19, and that frequent hand-washing is equally as important.

More global studies and large randomized trials of various protective strategies against C-19 are needed, the authors said.

But, given that most “masks” are just kept handy for use when required, set aside, and then re-used, most mask-wearing by the public is likely to increase virus exposure, not reduce it.

Have a healthy weekend, Keep the Faith!