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The face of the Coronavirus: Face Mask

THE ASIAN AGE. | PRIYA RATHNAM
Published : Mar 5, 2020, 12:00 am IST
Updated : Mar 5, 2020, 12:00 am IST

The recent identification of a coronavirus case in Hyderabad has sent the demand for masks soaring in the city.

Ranbir Kapoor
 Ranbir Kapoor

As the new Coronavirus, the COVID-19, gains ground globally and the world grapples to contain it, facemasks have assumed an important role in stopping this deadly disease in its tracks. The recent identification of a coronavirus case in Hyderabad has sent the demand for masks soaring in the city. We spoke to experts about the different types of masks in the market, and how they should be used.

“The COVID-19 virus possibly behaves like SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome); it causes mild illness in 82 per cent, severe illness in 15 per cent, critical illness in 3 per cent and death in 2.3 per cent cases. It spreads through large droplets and predominately from people having lower respiratory infections. It is thus important to adopt standard droplet precautions including regular washing of hands, covering the mouth and nose while sneezing and wearing a mask,” says Dr K.K. Aggarwal, president, Heart Care Foundation of India (HCFI) and Confederation of Medical Associations of Asia and Oceania (CMAAO).

But can wearing just any medical face mask offer protection against the COVID 19?

Experts say a regular surgical mask will not help you steer clear of the virus. For that you need a specialised mask, known as an N95 respirator. “There are only two kinds of masks that should be considered — N-95 and N-99, which filter out 95 per cent to 99 per cent of bacteria less than 0.3 microns in size,” says Dr Aggarwal.

“There are three types of common masks. Surgical mask, which costs around Rs 7, offer very limited protection. Then there is the three-layered surgical mask, which costs Rs 20, which is a little better. But, to prevent any respiratory diseases including Corona Viral infection, the N95 mask is the best option. It costs around Rs 150. The availability of these masks is limited, and the three-layered masks can be used instead,” says Dr Mallikarjun Rao S., Senior consultant pulmonologist, Apollo Hospitals.

Nevertheless, the demand for all types of masks is surging. There are different types of masks available in medical stores, and bulk orders have been placed for them, even as private distributors announced a hike in the price of these products. “Usually, over a month, around five to 10 masks are sold per day. Just within two days, this figure went up to 100-200,” says Rahul, a medical store owner.

. Both thin and thick masks, are available, he adds, explaining that thin ones are more in demand as they cost only Rs 20, compared the thick ones which cost around Rs 100. “We have been told that the price will be increased due to swelling demand and we are yet to receive the consignments we have ordered,” he says.   

According to WHO, masks are effective only when used in combination with frequent hand-cleaning with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.

Madhu, a pharmacist at the Apollo Hospitals, says masks are out of stock in the pharmacy. He explains that the N-95 mask is the thick one, and it is more sought-after. “Tissues, hand-wash liquids and hand sanitisers are also in demand,” he adds.

MAINTAIN HYGIENE

Masks may be useful as protection against the dreaded virus, but so are simple sanitary measures. “Hand washing and prevention of droplet infection should be the primary consideration to avoid onset of conditions like the Corona Virus,” feels Vikas Bagaria, founder, Pee Safe. “Given that about 80 per cent of the infections are caused by lack of poor hand hygiene, it is a good idea to keep a hand sanitizer handy,” he says. For those on the go, masks can be extremely helpful. “We have seen a surge in the demand for N95 and N99 masks since the onset of the Corona Virus. Our N95 anti-dust face masks filter out 95 per cent of the toxins present in the air with the help of the four layers present in the mask. This includes dust, allergens, bacteria, viruses and other pollutants including PM 2.5. The N99 anti-dust masks come with five layers for efficient filtration of non-oily particles like dust, microorganisms, toxic gases or odours. They filter out 99 per cent of pollutants and toxins present in the air. The 270-degree exhalation valve ensures better airflow and air condensation for easy breathing. The masks are suitable for all age-groups and can be worn for extreme protection and care,” adds Vikas.
Overall, meticulous adherence to standard hygiene measures as well as the use of appropriate face masks especially outside the house will go a long way in limiting the spread of this new virus which has been plaguing the world.

Tags: coronavirus, face mask