Of Masks and Spreading Germs
Warning/Note: Parts of this info-graphic were prepared based on the following study :Turbulent Gas Clouds and Respiratory Pathogen Emissions.And comments from Dr. John Campbell ( whose youtube channel has been tracking covid-19 for a while):To mask or not to maskThere are still many unknowns about how covid-19 actually spreads which I cover later and this is just one study, I do believe it is interesting and helpful especially in the moment.
According to the above sources normal breathing and talking can disperse your saliva and whatever germs ( pathogens technically) it carries about 2 meters or 6 1/2 feet, which as you can see is a really big distance.
Things don’t get better once our bodies unwittingly become dispersion agents trough coughing.
Sneezing ( the atchoo type ) is particularly effective as a weapon of mass pathogen dispersal.
Before you lock yourself into a closet with a gas mask for the rest of the year, let’s add nuance and context to the above graphics which imply that there simply is no way to avoid getting infected and spreading pathogens.
Like the infamous quote, there are things that we simply do not know but it would be oh so convenient to know right now:
How long does a pathogen, in this case covid-19 can remain airborne, active and how far does it travel, to this effect some evidence has been found that covid-19 can travel through wastewater plumbing and can go back into the air after falling to the floor or other objects.
The second pressing question is how long does the virus survive in the air and surfaces, on air ( floating ) it is estimated to be viable for 3 hrs, from the same study it can remain viable on surfaces like copper for up to 4 hrs, and more common ones like cardboard 24 hrs, and 3 days on plastic and stainless steel.
Unaccounted variables are temperature and humidity and I should stress that the above findings are from a few studies, yet this is the best we have so far.
Why wear masks ?
At first glance a mask seems like it would offer some protection from the virus, and the short answer is no, maybe and yes.
No and maybe because it depends on the material and how it’s made, covid-19 is about 0.125 Microns in size, so you’d need a mask that would filter 100% of particles below 0.1 Microns and there simply aren’t any masks out there that can filter at that level and be readily available for all of us, this should give you and idea of how different materials filter particles of 0.1 Microns and higher:
The case for wearing masks is a much better proposition from the other side of the mask, that is from the side that faces you.
You see the mask not only protects you to a varying degree from the virus itself, but also impedes you from dispersing it yourself through coughing or sneezing :
Note that your pathogens don't simply disappear, but they fall down on your clothes or get trapped on the inside of your mask so it's not a silver bullet, we still need to wash our hands, don't touch our face and properly dispose of masks as to not expose others.
Wearing masks is doubly important because with covid-19 you are both infectious with and without symptoms, even if your mask cuts only in half your pathogen dispersion you will be having a positive impact:
The most important thing ?
It should be clear by now that masks help both in preventing you getting pathogens and spreading them, the later only really works if everyone is wearing a mask:
This is just a small part of the problem, washing your hands, not touching your face and practicing physical distancing as to lower the pandemic curve are equally important aspects if we want to have better outcomes in this and maybe the next pandemic.
Preparing for the next Pandemic
System lessons possible solutions and why this is a perfect time to do so.
Thanks for reading.