Quality masks do help against coronavirus

English2020. márc 30.Növekedés.hu

How is it that coronavirus can be found in places such as the Canary Islands and Iran –where temperatures exceed 30 degrees Celsius – when we are told that warm weather can stop the spread of the virus and make it go away by summer? What masks to wear to be safe? And is this a pandemic or not? Növekedés.hu talked to a virologist.

Coronavirus keeps proposing new questions every day, considering the growing number of contradictory and false informaiton people recieve regarding the virus on mostly internet platforms. One common belief is that warmer seasons will stop the outbreak as viruses do not like warm weather. Although, infections occured in warm climate islands as well, including the Canary Islands where temperatures can reach up to 30 degrees Celsius. It is worth noting though, that the disease was brought in by a tourist and there is no data on how many people got contaminated by that person so we cannot jump on quick conclusions here. Thus, there is still hope that the spread of the virus may slow down during summer and symptoms may become less severe according to Viktor Müller, research assistant professor at the Department of Plant Systematics, Ecology and Theoretical Biology of the Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest.

Seasonality is quite common for respiratory diseases – this has been noted at other strains of coronavirus diseases. The same applies to flu as well. For instance, in 2009 a severe flu outbreak took place, which also spread during the summer as people had not developed immunity yet. This even holds true for the most severe pandemic on record so far – the Spanish flu in 1918 – when, following a milder first wave during summer, the more severe pandemic hit in fall and winter.

Beyond warm weather, seasonality [of the virus] is also related to the air's humidity and better general health during summer. However, this doesn’t mean that the virus would stop spreading as a result of those two  – the Spanish Flu hit the tropics the hardest, those countries' health care systems and as people’s health were not prepared for the pandemic, therefore, playing a more important role than climate.

The topic of masks is another recurring question. Is it good, is it useful? Does it protect you from the virus? Doctors wear it so do masks protect us as well? And if they are indeed working which type(s) of mask to wear? To answer to those questions in simple terms: FFP2 and FFP3 are the types of masks that protect the best.

According to Müller, it is always best to follow the recommendations of the National Public Health and Medical Officer Service. However, a study about the SARS outbreak shows the protective effect of masks. It is important to note that the study took place in closed hospitals. 

FFP2 masks provide protection against particles above 1 micron, while the most effective, FFP3 masks will filter particles below 1 micron or, according to some sources until size 0.3 micron. The diameter of the coronavirus particles is around 120-160 nm, which equals 0.12-0.16 microns.

However, virus particles are carried by respiratory droplets which are much larger in size, so good quality masks can filter indeed filter them.