Why wear a mouth mask not only merciful, but also …


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Photo: Marc Herremans

Every rational person is now convinced that wearing mouth masks helps to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. “Protect each other,” it sounds. Because the cliché wants you to wear a (normal) mouth mask especially for your fellow man, not so much for yourself. But an American study now shows that mouth masks also protect the wearer against the virus itself. And that whoever gets infected is also more likely to become less ill.

The study by scientists at John Hopkins University and the University of California San Francisco refers to an experiment in which a group of hamsters were infected with the corona virus and placed in cages next to healthy hamsters. The healthy hamsters shielded with oral mask material were found to be “significantly less infected” than their unprotected colleagues.

A second finding was that “the protected hamsters that did become infected showed milder disease symptoms.” Research from a cruise where mass masks were worn after a corona outbreak found that as many as 81 percent of passengers who tested positive remained completely asymptomatic. According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control, under normal circumstances, that figure is only 40 percent. The scientists also point to countries like Japan and South Korea, where wearing a mouth mask is particularly well established, and have a noticeably lower relative death rate than the rest of the world.

This is striking: oral masks would therefore also increase the number of light and asymptomatic infections. Read: whoever wears a mouth mask but is still infected becomes less seriously ill. According to the researchers, this is because the human body is better able to protect itself at a smaller dose of virus particles. “Our research shows that wearing a mouth mask is not just an act of mercy,” concluded doctor and infection specialist Monica Gandhi. “You also protect yourself with it.”


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