During the COVID-19 pandemic, face masks or coverings, including N95, FFP2, surgical, and cloth masks, have been employed as public and personal health control measures against the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
In community and healthcare settings, their use is intended as source control to limit transmission of the virus and also for personal protection to prevent infection. Properly worn masks both limit the respiratory droplets and aerosols spread by infected individuals and help protect healthy individuals from infection.Masking has proven effective in reducing the transmission of COVID-19 and other airborne illnesses through many studies. Masks vary in how well they work, with N95 and surgical masks outperforming cloth masks, which are more common due to supply shortages, but even cloth masks, with their variability in fabric type and mask fit, provide wearers with substantial protection from particles carrying COVID-19.Among readily available fabrics, double-layered cotton, hybrid masks, and cotton flannel perform best and filtration effectiveness generally improves with thread count. Healthcare workers, given their exposure, are recommended against using cloth masks.Governments have widely recommended and mandated mask-wearing. Prominent national and intergovernmental health agencies and their leaders have recommended the use of masks to reduce transmission, including the WHO, American, European and Chinese Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and American immunologist and NIAID Director Anthony Fauci.Masks have been extensively adopted across the world. As of March 2021, an estimated 129 billion face masks were used per month.
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