Why you should keep your face mask on while in public places

Commuters wait for transport on Moi Avenue in Nairobi on August 06, 2020.

Photo credit: Dennis Onsongo | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Quoting a study done on rodents, researchers found that the animals were “less likely to contract Sars-Cov-2 infection with a surgical mask partition”.
  • The research also found that the hamsters that contracted Covid-19 with the mask partition had milder symptoms.

As Covid-19 cases continue to surge in the country, experts are strongly recommending wearing of face masks.

Research has shown that the masks not only help control transmission of Sars-Cov-2,  but they can also help reduce the number of deaths from severe cases of Covid-19. Using the viral inoculum (viral dose) theory, a research by Monica Gandhi, Chris Beyrer, and Eric Goosby found that “universal masking reduces the “inoculum” or dose of the virus for the mask wearer, leading to more mild and asymptomatic infection manifestations.”

Quoting a study done on rodents, researchers found that the animals were “less likely to contract Sars-Cov-2 infection with a surgical mask partition”.

The research also found that the hamsters that contracted Covid-19 with the mask partition had milder symptoms.

According to the researchers, “exposing society to Sars-Cov-2 without the unacceptable consequences of severe illness with public masking could lead to greater community-level immunity and slower spread.”

This is because low viral dose to a person who has been exposed leads to a milder disease, or the exposed person remains asymptomatic, according to research.  One model the researchers used in their study showed that if 80 per cent of the population wears “a moderately effective mask, nearly half of the projected deaths over the next two months could be prevented.”

According to the researchers, the countries which embraced masking early in the pandemic such as the Czech Republic have less severe illness and death.

“Indeed, even when cases have resurged in these areas with population-based masking upon reopening, the fatality rate has remained low, which is suggestive of this viral inoculum theory,” states the research.

Speaking with the Nation, Dr Marybeth Maritim, an infectious disease specialist from the University of Nairobi said: “Wearing of masks prevents a higher dose of SARS-CoV-2 and consequently,  a severe form of the disease and even death, should one be exposed to the virus.” She said masks will save thousands if not millions in this pandemic.

Most deaths are occurring among people who are symptomatic. In Kenya, more than 90 per cent of Covid-19 cases are asymptomatic, which could have resulted from widespread wearing of masks at the initial stages of the pandemic. Unfortunately, many people have abandoned the masks at a time when experts are saying they have started to witness a more severe form of the disease.

Despite the government making face masks compulsory in public places,  most Kenyans, including those travelling in public service vehicles, are not wearing masks. Some are even sharing seats in packed vehicles. In newly issued guidelines, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention yesterday recommended that all passengers and workers on planes, trains, buses and other public transportation wear masks.

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