Mask Up India: The Lancet Study Shows that Virus is Airborne, Double Masking, N95 and KN95 Masks Recommended for Public
By: Sashwata Saha
Click on the image for instructions (Screenshot: CDC.gov)
Following a report from The Lancet, earlier this month, asserting that the novel coronavirus is an airborne pathogen, doctors are advising the use of the N95 and KN95 masks used by medical professionals that fit tightly and can filter up to 95% of small particles.
The study, written by six experts from the UK, the US and Canada, argues that from 33% to 59% of all COVID-19 cases could be attributed to asymptomatic or presymptomatic transmission of SARS-CoV-2 from people who are not coughing or sneezing. They said this supported a predominantly airborne mode of transmission. “Detailed analyses of human interactions and other variables cannot be adequately explained by droplets or fomites as is the predominant scientific view,” reads the conclusion.
Referring to the premier medical journal’s findings, Dr. Faheem Younus, the chief of Infectious Diseases at the University of Maryland, US, said on Twitter that the solution to dealing with an airborne pathogen is to buy two N95 or KN95 masks. “Use one today; leave the other in a PAPER bag for tomorrow. Keep alternating every 24 hours. Reuse for weeks if they aren’t damaged,” he wrote.
He advised people to ditch cloth masks and also said that ‘airborne’ does not mean the air is contaminated. “Airborne, however, means that the virus may remain suspended in the air — typically in indoor settings — and pose a risk,” he elaborated.
Indian doctors, on the other hand, realising that ensuring widespread availability of N95 and KN95 masks across the country is logistically impossible, are recommending double masking or using two layers of face coverings to increase the filter. Director of All India Institute of Medical Sciences Delhi, Dr Randeep Guleria, said to NDTV, “If you don’t have N95, then cover your face with a cloth mask or handkerchief and put a three-layer surgical mask over it. This should provide adequate protection from airborne droplets.”
As of April 18, the active number of coronavirus cases in India stands at 21 lakhs with 1.8 lakh fatalities recorded since last year. Nearly 2.75 lakh new cases were observed between April 17 and 18. The death toll in these 24 hours was 1,619.
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