Current DateSeptember 19, 2021

Covid-19: the best type of mask to deal with the virus

Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, the object of most attention has undoubtedly been the protective mask. Recently, a study compared different shapes and materials. The objective? Determine the best mask configuration for sneezing and coughing that most limits the spread of the virus.

The mask is currently the primary tool for limiting the spread of the coronavirus. In the past, several studies have ruled on the performance of medical grade masks. On the other hand, data on the materials and the shape of the masks made by the public are almost non-existent. A study carried out by the University of Florida Atlantic and published in the journal Physics of Fluids on June 30, 2020 is precisely interested in the subject.

FAU Mask
Credit: Florida Atlantic University

As part of this research, the aim was to visualize, through several masks, the propagation of the droplets transporting SARS-CoV-2. It should be noted in passing that this is the main means of transmission of the various coronaviruses. US researchers reproduced sneezing and coughing using a manikin, then took pictures of the particles highlighted by a laser.

The study leaders tested several types of masks. These are various handmade masks, a non-sterile conical mask sold in pharmacies as well as a simple bandana. According to the results, the bandana and handkerchief mask folded in half do not offer sufficient protection. On the other hand, the conical mask is much more efficient, just like the handmade mask from two layers of tight cotton.

The experiment made it possible to measure the propagation distance of the droplets according to the different materials (and shapes). A maskless sneeze causes projection up to 2.5 m. This value is 1.1 m for the bandana and 38 cm for the fabric mask, which is still too much. However, the conical mask sold in pharmacies does not project droplets more than 20 cm away, which is already much better. Finally, the prize goes to the tight cotton mask, reducing the distance to only 6 cm.

In short, handmade masks can sometimes be more effective than some commercially available masks. However, it is essential to work on the form and especially the materials for good efficiency.

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