Face coverings do protect people from catching the coronavirus and may even work better than social distancing, a study on-board a US warship found.
Scientists closely monitored what happened on the USS Theodore Roosevelt when coronavirus broke out among military personnel on it in March.
More than 1,000 of the ship’s nearly 4,900 crew members tested positive for Covid-19 during the self-contained outbreak.
And results from a study which was done at the time showed that only 55.8 per cent of people who regularly wore a face covering caught the disease, compared to 80.8 per cent of those who didn’t – a 25 per cent reduction.
Masks actually appeared to be more effective at stopping the spread of the disease than social distancing, which cut the infection rate from 70 per cent to 54.4 per cent (15.6 per cent drop).
Social distancing has been one of the most strictly adhered-to rules in the UK’s lockdown, as well as others around the world, while the effectiveness of masks has been fiercely debated.
But scientists have shown that face coverings are effective at stopping people spreading the virus when they are ill themselves.
They catch droplets which are expelled from someone’s nose and mouth when they breathe, talk, cough or sneeze, and which carry the coronavirus inside them.
If these droplets cannot escape the mask and circulate in the air, they cannot be breathed in by other people or settle on surfaces where others might touch them.
Britain’s Government is coming round to the idea of people wearing masks and, from today, they are mandatory on all public transport and recommended for people who are indoors with other people, such as shops.
Researchers found a 25 per cent difference in the number of people infected between those who did and didn’t wear a mask. Pictured: Service members Jacob Torgerson, right, Donnie Bun, center, and Ryan McIntyre, left, on the ship, May 15
Face masks are the most protective against Covid-19 over handwashing or social distancing, study of coronavirus riddled US warship Theodore Roosevelt suggests (pictured)
Wearing a protective facial covering was also found to be more effective than increased hand-washing. Pictured, navy seaman Steven Eckert wearing a mask, May 21
The Roosevelt pulled into Guam, an island in the Pacific Ocean, on March 27 with a rapidly escalating number of sailors testing positive for the virus.
It is not clear how the virus initially entered the ship – one sailor from the ship died from the coronavirus and several others were hospitalised.
THE TRUTH ABOUT FACE MASKS: WHAT STUDIES HAVE SHOWN
Research on how well various types of masks and face coverings varies but, recently, and in light of the pandemic of COVID-19, experts are increasingly leaning toward the notion that something is better than nothing.
A University of Oxford study published on March 30 concluded that surgical masks are just as effective at preventing respiratory infections as N95 masks for doctors, nurses and other health care workers.
It’s too early for their to be reliable data on how well they prevent infection with COVID-19, but the study found the thinner, cheaper masks do work in flu outbreaks.
The difference between surgical or face masks and N95 masks lies in the size of particles that can – and more importantly, can’t – get though the materials.
N95 respirators are made of thick, tightly woven and molded material that fits tightly over the face and can stop 95 percent of all airborne particles, while surgical masks are thinner, fit more loosely, and more porous.
This makes surgical masks much more comfortable to breathe and work in, but less effective at stopping small particles from entering your mouth and nose.
Droplets of saliva and mucous from coughs and sneezes are very small, and viral particles themselves are particularly tiny – in fact, they’re about 20-times smaller than bacteria.
For this reason, a JAMA study published this month still contended that people without symptoms should not wear surgical masks, because there is not proof the gear will protect them from infection – although they may keep people who are coughing and sneezing from infecting others.
But the Oxford analysis of past studies- which has not yet been peer reviewed – found that surgical masks were worth wearing and didn’t provide statistically less protection than N95 for health care workers around flu patients.
However, any face mask is only as good as other health and hygiene practices. Experts universally agree that there’s simply no replacement for thorough, frequent hand-washing for preventing disease transmission.
Some think the masks may also help to ‘train’ people not to touch their faces, while others argue that the unfamiliar garment will just make people do it more, actually raising infection risks.
So what about cloth coverings? Although good quality evidence is lacking, some data suggest that cloth masks may be only marginally (15 per cent) less effective than surgical masks in blocking emission of particles, said Babak Javid, principal investigator at Cambridge University Hospitals wrote in the BMJ on April 9.
He pointed to a study led by Public Health England in 2013 which found wearing some kind of material over the face was fivefold more effective than not wearing masks for preventing a flu pandemic.
The study suggested that a homemade mask ‘should only be considered as a last resort to prevent droplet transmission from infected individuals, but it would be better than no protection’.
In April, the US Navy and US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) investigated the outbreak involving a sample of 382 service members (27 per cent) on board who were mostly young, healthy adults.
The CDC has also been conducting research on the USS Kidd ship – the second US warship to have a coronavirus outbreak.
The study found the outbreak occurred due to widespread transmission between members, who had either mild symptoms or none at all.
‘Those who reported taking preventive measures had a lower infection rate than did those who did not report taking these measures’, the study found.
The greatest protection was found among those who wore masks.
Only 55.8 per cent of those who did wear a mask became infected compared to 80.8 per cent of those who did not – a difference of 25 per cent.
Physical distancing reduced the infection by 15.6 per cent, with 54.4 per cent of those practising it becoming infected compared to 70 per cent of those who did not.
Wearing a protective facial covering was also found to be more effective than increased hand-washing.
Around 62 per cent of those who reported regularly washing their hands becoming infected compared to around 65 per cent of those who didn’t regularly wash their hands – a difference of three per cent.
The authors of the study stated: ‘This report improves the understanding of COVID-19 in the U.S. military and among young adults in congregate settings and reinforces the importance of preventive measures to lower risk for infection in similar environments.’
It comes after months of fierce debate over whether to recommend the public to wear face masks amid a shortage of surgical face masks for health workers.
In May, the Government said people in the UK should ‘wear a face covering [home made, with cloth or material] in enclosed spaces where social distancing is not always possible’.
The guidance had already been issued to Americans by the CDC in mid-April.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) says widespread use is not necessary – only medics and those who are high-risk or who have symptoms should wear them.
It has also raised concerns there could be a shortage of masks for medical workers if they are bought by the general public.
Scientific papers submitted to the Government’s SAGE committee early in the pandemic revealed British scientists didn’t have much argument for face masks.
The papers up until mid-April said that there was little or mixed evidence in favour of wearing face masks, and much of the research was not relevant to British society.
But now, it is mandatory to wear a face mask on public transport in Britain.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, who made the announcement on June 4, said: ‘With more people using transport the evidence suggests wearing face coverings offers some – albeit limited – protection against the spread for the virus.’
The UK Government is not convinced they are helpful in other scenarios and believe they may do more harm than good by giving people the false confidence to take unnecessary risks.
However, a study last week found the widespread use of face masks in Britain could keep the reproduction rate below one and stop a second wave of coronavirus.
Lead author Dr Richard Stutt, from Cambridge University, said: ‘Our analyses support the immediate and universal adoption of face masks by the public.’
Professor John Colvin, co-author from the University of Greenwich, said: ‘There is a common perception that wearing a face mask means you consider others a danger.
|Action||Positive test||No positive test||% difference|
|Avoiding common areas||53.8%||23.0%||-57%|
‘In fact, by wearing a mask you are primarily protecting others from yourself. Cultural and even political issues may stop people wearing face masks, so the message needs to be clear, “My mask protects you, your mask protects me”.
WEARING FACE MASKS CAN REDUCE THE R RATE, STUDY FINDS
The widespread use of face masks in Britain could keep the reproduction rate below one and stop a second wave of coronavirus, a study suggests.
Modelling by the universities of Cambridge and Greenwich found if half of Brits wore masks it would prevent the crisis from spiralling back out of control.
The researchers said mask-wearing by everyone was twice as effective at reducing R compared to only asking symptomatic people to use them.
But they warned current social distancing and lockdown measures were not suffice to stifle the spread of Covid-19.
The researchers estimated the transmission rate based on levels of compliance from the public.
If 50 per cent or more of the population wore them then the R will remain below one as long as social distancing stayed in place and lockdown was eased very gradually.
If every single Briton wore masks in public then the scientists estimate it could keep R stable without any draconian curbs.
But the researchers admit it would be highly unlikely that everyone would adhere to the rules.
Lead author Dr Richard Stutt, from Cambridge University, said: ‘Our analyses support the immediate and universal adoption of face masks by the public.’
The UK’s R rate is thought to be between 0.7 and 0.9 — but some experts estimate it has crept above 1 in the North West and South West of England.
The R represents the average number of people an infected patient passes the virus to and keeping it below 1 is crucial to prevent a second surge of the virus.
‘In the UK, the approach to face masks should go further than just public transport. The most effective way to restart daily life is to encourage everyone to wear some kind of mask whenever they are in public.’
As well as looking at the strength of protection measures, the CDC study on the Roosevelt also found nearly two thirds had positive antibody test results, which indicates they had fought the virus.
Previously all 4,800 sailors on the Roosevelt aircraft carrier were tested for the coronavirus previously, and about a quarter tested positive.
But the serology testing – to look for the presence of specific antibodies in the blood – suggests far more were infected that had gone unnoticed.
Similar tests in Italy and elsewhere have indicated the presence of antibodies in people who did not test positive previously, giving a more accurate sense of the spread of the virus.
However, the serology test could also show that people who tested positive for coronavirus do not carry antibodies later, potentially raising questions about their immunity to the virus.
While the results could indicate a far higher presence of the coronavirus, one of the Navy officials said that may not be the case because of the way the study was carried out.
‘The outbreak investigation did not encompass the entire crew, and the results of this study cannot be generalized to the entire crew,’ the official said.
The spread of the virus on the ship put into motion a series of events that led to the firing of the ship’s captain, Brett Crozier.
Mr Crozier felt compelled to write to several other commanders pleading for more urgent Navy action to protect his crew of nearly 5,000.
Mr Crozier was then relieved of command for what the Navy’s top civilian official at the time, Thomas Modly, called poor judgment.
Mr Modly resigned several days later, and the Navy is now seeking higher-level approval to reverse his move and restore Mr Crozier to command.
Officials last week released a Blue Peter-style guide on how to make one from an old T-shirt
THOUSANDS OF STAFF TO POLICE FACE COVERINGS ON UK PUBLIC TRANSPORT
Thousands of extra police and staff have been deployed across England’s public transport network today as new rules which make wearing face coverings compulsory come in to play.
The strict new law means passengers on Tubes, buses, trains and planes must wear a face covering from today or risk being turned away, or being slapped with a £100 fine.
But within hours of the rule coming in, passengers have already been seen attempting to enter stations without them, while one man who had a face covering was seen wearing it away from his mouth while sitting on a Tube.
Police officers have also been seen handing out masks to those attempting to enter stations without one.
Passengers on public transport across England must wear a face-covering from today or risk being turned away, or being slapped with a £100 fine. Pictured: Passengers arrive at Waterloo Station in London today
It comes as more than 3,000 extra staff, including police officers, have been brought in to enforce the rule – which applies to all passengers on trains, buses, Tubes, coaches, trams, planes or ferries. Children under the age of 11 and those with certain health conditions or disabilities are exempt.
One passenger who travelled on a tube today and saw ‘everyone wearing a mask’ said the measure was ‘reassuring’.
The new rule comes as the government continues to strip back its draconian lockdown laws in place of looser restrictions, which included allowing people to meet with friends inside a ‘social bubble’ – which was brought in at the weekend.
Non-essential shops are also set to open today for the first time since March when the lockdown rules were imposed to slow the spread of coronavirus.
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Face coverings DO work: Study of coronavirus outbreak on a US warship finds infection rate was 56% for personnel wearing masks and 81% for those without - and they worked better than social distancing have 2806 words, post on www.dailymail.co.uk at June 14, 2020. This is cached page on Business News. If you want remove this page, please contact us.