N95 Masks Most Effective, Any Other Mask Better Than No Mask: ISRO Researcher

New Delhi: Researchers from ISRO and Sri Jayadeva Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences and Research in Karnataka have found that N95 masks may be most effective in reducing the spread of the novel coronavirus. It also found that any other mask was better than no mask.

They pointed out that airborne transmission via aerosol droplets from sneezing and coughing are the dominant mode of spreading the virus.

Padmanabha Prasanna Simha from ISRO, and Prasanna Simha Mohan Rao from the Sri Jayadeva Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences and Research in Karnataka, experimented on the visual flow fields of coughs under various common mouth covering scenarios.

The study published in the journal Physics of Fluids found that N95 masks reduced a cough’s initial velocity by up to a factor of 10, and limited its spread to between 0.1 and 0.25 metres.

In comparison, an uncovered cough can travel up to three metres. A simple disposable mask can bring down the distance to 0.5 metres.

“If a person can reduce the extent of how much they contaminate the environment by mitigating the spread, it’s a far better situation for other healthy individuals who may enter places that have such contaminated areas,” Simha said.

Talking about regular cloth masks, Simha said, “Even if a mask does not filter out all the particles, if we can prevent clouds of such particles from travelling very far, it’s better than not doing anything.”

“In situations where sophisticated masks are not available, any mask is better than no mask at all for the general public in slowing the spread of infection,” said Simha.

They dismissed the claim that using an elbow to cover up a cough is a good alternative, stating that unless a sleeve is used, the bare arm can’t stop the airflow properly.

They also highlighted the importance of social distancing.

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