Scientists turned to mathematical models to examine the impact of mask use and its distribution among the general population during a coronavirus outbreak.
The widespread use of masks among the population can help brake the pandemic and reduce the total number of infections and deaths by COVID-19, according to a study that highlights that even those of cloth, whose protective effect is limited, are effective if their deployment is universal.
The research, published in the scientific journal Nature Communications, has been coordinated by Colin Worby, of the IBroad Institute of the MIT and the Harvard University (Cambridge, Massachusetts) and by Hsiao-Han Chang, of the Tsing Hua National University from Taiwan (China).
The scientists turned to mathematical models to examine the impact of mask use and its distribution among the general population during an outbreak of coronavirus.
To do this, they simulated outbreaks in which the supply and efficacy of the disposable masks varied and observed the number of infections and resulting deaths.
In this way, they found that the total number of deaths and infections decreased as the availability and effectiveness of masks increased.
During the study, the authors proposed four scenarios for the supply of disposable masks: random distribution, priority distribution to the elderly, distribution to the elderly and detected cases, and distribution only to detected cases.
In all its models, it was assumed that healthcare workers and key personnel would have adequate protection.
The authors found that prioritizing the elderly and maintaining a supply of surgical masks for identified infectious cases was more effective and reduced infections much more than random distribution.
In addition, when evaluating the use of reusable cloth face masksThe authors found that the reduction in deaths was comparable to that achieved with the selective distribution of medical-grade disposable masks, even when supplies of surgical masks were limited to 10 percent of the population.
They also found that when everyone wore them, cloth ones could lead to a 3 to 5 percent reduction in deaths, and that additional targeted distribution of medical masks to the elderly and symptomatic could double this effect.
The study concludes that the use of face masks is “an important component of public health measures” to limit the current spread of the SARS-CoV-2However, it states that new research is necessary to obtain better estimates of the effectiveness of masks among the public during the COVID-19 pandemic.
With information from .