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Researchers have found that wearing surgical masks can significantly reduce the rate of COVID-19 transmission through the air, according to a study published on Sunday.
The study, conducted by a team of scientists in Hong Kong, found that the rate of non-contact transmission via respiratory droplets or airborne particles had dropped by 75% when masks were used.
“The conclusions involved in the world and the public is that the effectiveness of wearing a mask against the coronavirus pandemic is enormous,” said Dr. Yuen Kwok-yung, a leading microbiologist at the University of Hong Kong who helped discover the SARS virus in 2003.
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It was published by the microbiology department of the University of Hong Kong and comes as world leaders, including the World Health Organization (WHO), have questioned the effectiveness of face covers outside medical circles.
The study, described as the first of its kind, placed hamsters in two cages, one of the groups infected with COVID-19 and the other being healthy. They placed the animals in three different scenarios to analyze the effectiveness of the face covers.
In one scenario, the mask barriers were placed only on cages with infected subjects, another saw the masks covering healthy subjects and the third saw no mask barriers at all. For all scenarios, a ventilator was placed between the cages to allow the transmission of respiratory droplets.
They discovered that when the mask was placed on the infected cage, the infection rate had dropped to just over 15%.
This infection rate reached 33% when the mask barrier was only used to cover the cage of healthy hamsters.
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Without any mask barriers, about two-thirds of healthy hamsters were infected with the virus within a week, the study found.
The researchers added that hamsters who were infected even with the mask barrier had fewer viruses in their bodies than those infected without the masks.
“In our experience with hamsters, this shows very clearly that if infected hamsters or humans – especially asymptomatic or symptomatic ones – put on masks, they are actually protecting other people,” said Yuen at a conference release on Sunday, according to Sky News.
“This is the best result we have shown here. Transmission can be reduced by 50% when surgical masks are used, especially when masks are worn by infected people. “
He said that until we get a vaccine for the virus, what’s still handy is either social estrangement or wearing a mask.
Last month, a separate study released by a group of international experts, created a model that shows that virus cases could be greatly reduced if “(almost) universal masking” is adopted.
“Universal masking at 80 [percent] the adoption flattens the curve much more than maintaining a tight lock, “wrote researchers in the study, which was not yet peer reviewed last week.
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“Hiding at only 50 [percent] adoption is not enough to prevent further spread, “added the researchers. Replacing strict blocking with social distancing on May 31 without masking results in uncontrolled spread. “
Chris Ciaccia of Fox News contributed to this report