Coronavirus myth busted: Wearing a face mask won’t reduce transmission probability to 1.5%

Some studies have been conducted on the effectiveness of wearing a mask, but none have been on a scale large enough to make such claims.

Myupchar April 25, 2020 15:49:35 IST
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Coronavirus myth busted: Wearing a face mask won’t reduce transmission probability to 1.5%

Goa was the latest addition in the list of Indian states that have made it compulsory for people to wear a mask when they step out of their homes. While reusable cotton masks are affordable and readily available, any cloth wrapped around your nose and mouth is permissible.

However, the availability of more information about certain topics is also used as an opportunity to deceive people by spreading misinformation. Many people are sharing an image on social media that makes three unfounded claims.

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Representational image. Image by Manuel Darío Fuentes Hernández from Pixabay.

Myth circulating about face masks

1. If a healthy person wears a mask and comes in contact with a COVID-19 carrier who is not wearing a mask, the transmission probability is 70%.

2. If a healthy person does not wear a mask and comes in contact with a COVID-19 carrier who is wearing a mask, the transmission probability is 5%.

3. If a healthy person wears a mask and comes in contact with a COVID-19 carrier who is also wearing a mask, the transmission probability reduces to 1.5%.

The image also states that you should “refuse to relate closely with anyone not wearing a face mask”.

The truth about face masks

In reality, no such statistics are available at the moment. Some studies have been conducted on the effectiveness of wearing a mask, but none have been on a scale large enough to make such claims. According to a report by Reuters, none of the health authorities supports these claims either. The World Health Organisation states that wearing a mask alone is not enough - you need to supplement the habit with frequent and proper hand hygiene as well.

Many experts have even raised concerns about how improper handling of a mask, like touching it with bare hands and not washing your hands after or not washing it regularly, could increase the risk of contracting the virus.

As for refusing to relate closely with anyone not wearing a mask: it is essential that we don’t think of masks as a one-stop solution and go back to our old ways once the lockdown is over - just as long as we are wearing a mask. Physical distancing must be followed even once restrictions are removed. A minimum distance of 6 feet should be maintained between all individuals, whether or not they’re wearing a face mask.

As and when more research is conducted, we may find out exactly how effective masks can be in protecting oneself from COVID-19 . Until then, we only know that they offer some protection - which is, of course, better than nothing since there is no vaccine for it yet.

For more information, read our article on Face covers to battle COVID-19 .

Health articles in Firstpost are written by myUpchar.com, India’s first and biggest resource for verified medical information. At myUpchar, researchers and journalists work with doctors to bring you information on all things health.

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