Did you think 2021 was the end of the Coronavirus? Well, if you did, you’re mistaken. The so-called Coronavirus has taken the form of probably a more dangerous and easily transmissible variant: Omicron.
And with the fear of the 3rd wave that might have already started, doctors and healthcare professionals have started asking people to upgrade their masks. But is your mask enough to protect you from Omicron infection? And which mask is best at keeping Omicron at bay? For the answers to the above questions, read along.
What’s the COVID-19 Situation in India and on a Global Scale?
On 9th January, Sunday, India recorded 1,79,723 COVID cases, which was 25 times more than the cases recorded about 15 days ago. On a global level, 19,63,737 COVID cases were recorded on 9th January Sunday, which was almost three times more than the cases that were recorded 15 days ago.
This sudden increase in the number of COVID-19 cases indicates one thing: the high transmissibility of the Omicron variant. So, what should be your first step against this virus?
Well, a high-quality mask. However, before talking about the mask, let’s learn more about the Omicron variant.
What is Omicron?
Omicron, as you may know, is the latest variant of the Novel Coronavirus. Although there’s some news of the IHU variant (believed to be the latest), the Omicron variant is considered the reason for fear so far.
How is it Different from the Previous Variant, and Why is it More Transmissible?
Talking in layman’s terms, Omicron carries a higher viral load than the delta variant (predecessor of Omicron). Also, the mutations in the Omicron virus are on its spike protein. This helps the virus evade some of the immune responses in us humans. And all this makes the Omicron virus more transmissible than its previous variant or variants.
However, the Omicron virus is considered less dangerous as fewer people infected with this virus require hospitalization as compared to the delta variant, which is a good sign.
With that said, let’s now talk about the first layer of protection that might protect you from getting infected with Omicron: Masks.
What are the Different Masks Types and Which One’s Most Effective Against Omicron?
This mask doesn’t deserve to be on the list when it comes to fighting Omicron infection. However, we’re listing the cloth mask as it is better than wearing no mask at all. It might filter out dust particles but is ineffective in filtering bacterial or viral particles. Anyone taking care of COVID-positive patients shouldn’t use a cloth mask.
Surgical Mask (Layered)
A disposable polypropylene mask is quite effective in blocking dust particles, aerosols containing a virus, and droplets. However, a normal surgical mask is loose fitting which makes it less effective as infected air might leak in from the gaps.
There’s a more effective variant of the surgical mask: a 3-ply surgical mask. This mask can filter out dust particles, pollutants, and other chemicals. What makes this mask effective is the 3-layered protection and the metal strip that can help you close any gaps. This way, no air can enter the mask.
This mask is recommended for healthcare professionals or front-line workers. Also, the people taking care of positive family members can use these masks.
N95 masks take the protection to another level. This mask helps filter out almost 95% of tiny particles and can also trap viruses and bacteria that are up to 0.03 micron large. The N95 mask isn’t recommended for the use of the general public.
However, this mask can prove beneficial for healthcare professionals and medical professionals, along with the people who’re taking care of COVID patients.
There also exist K95 and KF94 respirators, but they’re costly and aren’t properly regulated by the Indian government. So, which one is the most effective mask against Omicron?
Well, after analyzing the above-mentioned common mask types, N95 respirator masks are the best. Although these masks are costlier than the others on the list, the effectiveness against infection is better too.
Also, you can trust 3-ply polypropylene disposable surgical masks. You can buy them in bulk and dispose them after use. These masks are both affordable and offer decent protection.
Although masks offer limited protection, the type of mask you use can determine whether or not you’ll get infected. Also, because Omicron is highly contagious, it’s of utmost importance that you take all the necessary precautions.
Even though cloth masks are better than not wearing a mask, it’s better that you avoid them. As recommended by healthcare professionals, you should invest in a good quality mask. This way, you’ll be able to significantly reduce the risk of infection.