Masks cut coronavirus pathways in half

By Robert Preidt

Health Day Reporter

FRIDAY, 14 January 2022 (Health Day News) – Face masks are offered as a key tool in preventing the spread of COVID-19, and a new study offers further evidence that they work.

Florida researchers have found that face masks have shortened the distance that airborne pathogens such as coronavirus can cover by more than half.

The findings suggest that some guidelines on COVID-19 social distance could, according to the authors, be relaxed when people wear masks.

“Research provides clear evidence and guidance that a distance of three feet with face masks is better than a distance of six feet without covering the face,” said study co-author Kareem Ahmed. He is an associate professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aeronautical Engineering at the University of Central Florida.

For this study, Ahmed and colleagues used special tools to measure the distance in all directions that droplets and aerosols traveled from 14 people aged 21 to 31 when they talked and coughed when they had different types of masks or not.

Each participant recited the phrase and simulated a cough for five minutes without covering the face, with a fabric covering the face, and a three-layer disposable surgical mask.

The airborne emissions produced by participants when they spoke or cough spread to four feet in all directions when they did not have a mask, compared to about two feet when they wore a face mask and about six inches when they wore a surgical mask, investigators found.

The study was published on January 12 at Journal of Infectious Diseases.

Learning more about how to reduce the transmission of airborne infectious diseases can help keep people safe and manage responses to COVID-19 and other pandemics.

The next step is to extend the study to other participants.

The idea for the study came from the team’s jet propulsion research.

“The principles are the same,” Ahmed said in a school press release. “Our cough and speech are exhausted driving crests.”

More information

The American Center for Disease Control and Prevention offers a mask guide.

SOURCE: University of Central Florida, press release, January 12, 2022

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