Wearing masks makes more sense than ever

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The more state measures are gradually abolished, the more the responsibility for health care returns to the individual.

Even in spring 2022, the corona pandemic is not yet over

According to experts, wearing masks is particularly important, even though it is mandatory in fewer and fewer places. “If you are indoors with a lot of people, in the underground for example, or in a crowded supermarket, I would recommend continuing to wear a mask,” virologist Sandra Ciesek told the “Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung” (FAZ) at the weekend.

Intensive care physician Christian Karagiannidis emphasized on Deutschlandfunk radio: “The risk of infection has never been as high as it is now.“ On the other hand, he said, many people are protected from a severe course of the disease by vaccinations.

He said he was banking on everyone individually, helping to limit infections wherever possible. “Part of that is just trying to wear as much mask as possible.”

“If you are with many people indoors, please keep your mask on,” the intensive care physician appealed. Karagiannidis explicitly recommends wearing FFP2 masks.

According to Ciesek, this applies especially to those with a higher risk of severe disease progression. “So those who are a bit older or have a pre-existing condition should voluntarily wear the mask more often than someone young and healthy.” Check made a simple rule of thumb: the mask protects against infection and the vaccination against the disease’s severe course.

According to Ciesek, even if you have been vaccinated three times, you should not do without the mask. The risk of a severe illness is indeed lower. “But there is also the risk of suffering from long covid, i.e., long-term consequences of the infection,” says the virologist. “We still don’t know enough about how often that occurs in vaccinated people, so the mask and avoiding infection can make a lot of sense for boostered people.” In addition, she said, wearing a mask also protects others because you are less likely to pass on the virus. “If you wear a mask, you also protect others who have to go shopping, for example, and tend to get sick more severely in case of infection.”

Clear study results

A study from the USA published earlier this month in the journal “The Lancet Public Health” concludes that consistent use of face masks should be considered until various vaccine protection thresholds of, for example, 70 or 90 percent fully vaccinated are reached, and even up to ten weeks beyond that. According to the simulations used, this would prevent many infections, hospital admissions, and deaths and save money. According to this, face masks are one of the more cost-effective measures in the pandemic.

An international research team from universities in Sweden, Italy, and Austria also studied the protective effect of masks. According to the study, a person speaking without a face mask can spread infected droplets at one meter. If the same person coughs, the droplets can be spread up to three meters. If the person sneezes, the spread distance can be up to seven meters. With a face mask, the risk of spreading the infection decreases significantly. The results were published in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface.

“If you wear a surgical mask or an FFP2 mask, the risk of infection is reduced to the point where it is practically negligible – even if you are standing just one meter away from an infected person,” explains Gaetano Sardina, associate professor of fluid mechanics at Chalmers University of Technology’s Department of Mechanics and Maritime Sciences, who is one of the researchers behind the study. This is true when the mouth-nose protection is worn correctly, regardless of the environmental conditions and whether the person is talking, coughing, or sneezing.

Fabric masks, by the way, do not have this effect, as new research results from British and French universities show. The data published in the journal “Physics of Fluids” show that FFP2 masks filter particles carrying the coronavirus five times more efficiently than fabric masks. From the Department of Physics at Surrey and the paper’s lead author, Dr. Richard Sear, said, “It remains important that people make informed decisions about what types of face coverings they wear. Our research shows that switching from a fabric mask to an approved FFP2 respirator significantly improves protection and reduces transmission.”

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