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Effectiveness of Surgical and Cotton Masks in Blocking SARS–CoV-2

A Controlled Comparison in 4 Patients

07 April 2020

Background: During respiratory viral infection, face masks are thought to prevent transmission (1). Whether face masks worn by patients with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) prevent contamination of the environment is uncertain (2, 3). A previous study reported that surgical masks and N95 masks were equally effective in preventing the dissemination of influenza virus (4), so surgical masks might help prevent transmission of severe acute respiratory syndrome–coronavirus 2 (SARS–CoV-2). However, the SARS–CoV-2 pandemic has contributed to shortages of both N95 and surgical masks, and cotton masks have gained interest as a substitute.

Objective: To evaluate the effectiveness of surgical and cotton masks in filtering SARS–CoV-2.

In conclusion, both surgical and cotton masks seem to be ineffective in preventing the dissemination of SARS–CoV-2 from the coughs of patients with COVID-19 to the environment and external mask surface.

Please click here for the ful article in Annals of Internal Medicine