FRIDAY, Jan. 14, 2022 (HealthDay News) — Face masks are touted as a key tool in preventing the spread of COVID-19, and a new study provides more evidence that they work.
Florida researchers have found that face masks cut the distance that airborne pathogens such as the coronavirus can travel by more than half.
The findings suggest that some of the COVID-19 social distancing guidelines can be relaxed when people wear masks, according to the authors.
Study co-author Karim Ahmed said: “The research provides clear evidence that a distance of three feet with face covering is better than six feet without face covering.” He is an associate professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at the University of Central Florida.
For the study, Ahmed and colleagues used special instruments to measure the distance in all directions traveled by droplets and aerosols from 14 people, ages 21 to 31, when they spoke and coughed while wearing different types of masks or not wearing a mask.
Each participant recited a phrase and simulated coughing for five minutes without covering the face, with a cloth face covering, and with a disposable three-layer surgical mask.
The investigators found that the airborne emissions released by the participants when they spoke or coughed spread four feet in all directions when they did not have a mask on, compared to about two feet when they wore a cloth face covering and about six inches when they wore a surgical mask.
The study was published on January 12 in Journal of Infectious Diseases.
Learning more about how to reduce the transmission of airborne infectious diseases can help keep people safe and manage responses to COVID-19 and other epidemics, according to researchers.
The next step is to expand the study with more participants.
The idea for the study came from the team’s jet propulsion research.
“The principles are the same,” Ahmed said in a school press release. “Our cough and speech are our exhausting thrusters.”
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers a guide to masks.
Source: University of Central Florida, press release, January 12, 2022