Posted on April 26, 2020
How effective is the cloth or DIY mask in comparison to surgical mask protecting us from the coronavirus?
Compared with surgical masks or respirators, very little research has been done on cloth masks.
In 2015, researchers published the first randomized controlled trial of cloth masks and found that hospital workers in Vietnam were 13 times more likely to come down with an influenza-like illness when wearing a cloth mask rather than a disposable surgical one.
The cloth mask group also had higher rates of respiratory infection than the control group, which sometimes wore surgical masks per the hospitals’ standard practice. However, because there wasn’t a group that wore no masks at all, the researchers couldn’t tell whether cloth masks still might have provided some protection to wearers.
If you wear a mask
For those who choose to wear a mask, Feng recommended learning the proper technique to reduce accidental infection from the mask itself. As demonstrated in a WHO video, the key is to not to touch the outside of the mask — and to wash your hands if you do.
The CDC also offers advice and a few patterns for those creating their own masks.
But most critically, don’t think a mask protects you or exempts you from social distancing or hand washing. As Feng told us, it’s “better to stay home.”
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