Oddly enough, even in a situation where the proliferation of COVID-19 isn’t subsiding in any way, there are still people who question its existence.
What do we now know about this virus?
It has been a little over a year since the first patient became infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus. At the same time, both doctors and scientists are still continuing their research and observation of the new coronavirus. And they are still learning a lot about it and the human immune system.
As one of the leading specialists in the field of virology, scientist Alexander Lukashev says that it is now clear that the main means of transmission of the coronavirus is airborne. At the very beginning of the pandemic, there were serious concerns that it also spreads through contact and everyday life (getting on the surface, hands, etc.), but the further, the less important this method seems. The main cause of infection is close contact with an infected person in a poorly ventilated room.
In quantitative terms, there have been no studies of the coronavirus yet. But there have been studies for influenza, for example, where volunteers were infected with different doses of the virus. And those volunteers who received 10 thousand and even 100 thousand viruses, most often fell ill with no symptoms or in a very mild form. But those who received 1 million or 10 million viruses fell ill much more seriously and spread the virus much more. This is another argument in favour of masks because although people talk about the fact that someone wore a mask and got sick, and someone did not wear a mask and did not get sick, reducing the dose of the virus can have a decisive effect on the development of the disease.
In general, viruses are not at all interested in killing their host. The task of the virus is to multiply and infect the next host. And ideally, when the virus and the host have coexisted for a long time, viruses try not to kill the host and the host does not seek to completely destroy the virus. In those cases when the virus is adapted to its host, it multiplies mainly on mucous membranes: like a runny nose or cough.
The body’s immune response
We all respond to pathogens in different ways – this, in fact, is the basis of our survival as a species. Some of us react to it too intensely, too violently. And the coronavirus, in fact, would not have been such a serious threat if not for our response. This reaction is that the wrong parts, the wrong elements of the immune system are mobilized.
The immune system does not respond as it should: orderly and calmly. It seems to it that the threat is catastrophic, excessive, and it responds at the very first stage severely through the activation of macrophages, vascular micro-thrombosis and a cytokine storm. These are now the main mechanisms of the severe course of the disease. It is they who cause the greatest problems and lead to death.
So what are masks for?
Masks are primarily needed so as not to infect others. Even if you don’t cough or sneeze. Since the coronavirus is transmitted mainly by airborne droplets, drops with the coronavirus from the respiratory tract of an infected person end up in the air and then on the mucous membranes of a healthy person. In order for the droplets to end up in the air, an infected person does not need to sneeze or cough – just breathe, speak or sing. Heavy drops fall faster, small ones can hang in the air for a long time. It is believed that the new coronavirus is spreading to a much greater extent with the help of heavy droplets. Therefore, it is important to maintain a distance of at least a meter to other people. Of course, this is an approximate value: drops from a sick person can fall both closer to them and further, so it is better when the distance is greater. Masks on an infected person stop these drops – some do it more efficiently, some less.
An infected person does not always even know that they are infected
The problem with some infections and, as it has gradually emerged, with COVID-19, is that a person can be dangerous to others for a few days before symptoms appear. Or even if there is a virus in the body, and the disease does not manifest itself – or it manifests itself atypically (for example, headache or diarrhoea). Therefore, people with whom the infected person spoke for more than 15 minutes at a distance of fewer than two meters two days before the onset of symptoms or a positive test for coronavirus are considered close contacts.
How to properly care for your mask
To prevent the fabric mask from becoming a source of viruses and remain effective, it is recommended to follow these rules:
- Change the mask if it gets wet, you get dirty or for some reason, it becomes difficult to breathe through it. The World Health Organization recommendation is to always put the mask in a plastic bag.
- Wash the fabric masks daily and more often if the mask is dirty. Use soap or powder when washing. The WHO recommendations in this area are quite strict: masks should be washed at 60 ° C.
- If you need to remove the mask for a while, then it must be put in a safe place (the same paper bag) – where no one can accidentally cough on it.
- Wash your hands before and after putting on and removing the mask. And, of course, don’t touch your eyes, nose and mouth in the process.
- The mask must be strictly individual and cannot be used by several people.
What to do with a mask during the cold season
So, according to the rules, masks must be changed every 3-4 hours, or when they get wet. At the same time, it is easy to see that masks get wet much faster in winter than in the warm season. Pharmacists advise in the case when you go for a walk in the fresh air, and then you are going to enter the premises – a store or public transport – be sure to change the mask to a new one before that. Otherwise, it will cease to be effective. Discard the old mask as it cannot be reused. And before putting on a new mask, you need to wash or disinfect your hands well and do not rush to touch your face with them.
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