The protective masks can be divided into three main categories:
Those of high protection (the so-called FFP2 or FFP3 ) with or without respiratory filter, which are used to protect healthcare professionals directly involved in assisting a patient certainly or probably infected with Virus: they filter all particles, even the smallest ones.
The surgical masks , the light ones in non-woven fabric, which are used precisely by the surgeon to keep the operating field sterile; they have very limited protection for the wearer, but serve to prevent the emission of potentially infectious particles to the external environment.
The masks not certified for sanitary use, which can be packaged with any type of tissue covering the nose and mouth.
Health workers who work in risky wards, in addition to the FFP2 or FFP3 masks, wear other protective devices such as screens, glasses, overalls , because the virus, in addition to penetrating through the nose or mouth, can also penetrate through the subjunctive , i.e. mucous membranes of the eyes . In addition, those who wear masks with respiratory filters often wear a surgical mask over these masks, because the filter stops incoming particles, but not outgoing ones and, therefore, an operator who is infected and does not know could transmit the virus to his colleagues. The second mask, the surgical one, holds precisely the particles leaving the respiratory filter. Fortunately, to limit the transmission of the virus in the community, this level of very high security is not needed.
Theoretically, if EVERYONE wore a surgical mask when leaving home and meeting another person, the chain of infection would soon stop. Unfortunately, surgical masks are not available in very high quantities and indefinitely. If necessary, however, a good non-sanitary mask, but packaged with criteria and with several layers of suitable fabrics, could also do its good function.
Having a surgical mask, or a good non-sanitary mask available, you have to be careful of some precautions to be respected :
- when handling the mask before wearing it, be sure to have the clean hands , otherwise we risk contaminating an object which we will then bring into close contact with the nose and mouth.
- The mask must adhere well to the face and completely cover the nose and mouth.
- The mask should be changed when you moisten from breathing or, in any case, every 4 hours.
- Need avoid touching the faceplate while we wear it, because after a while we use it, the mask could be contaminated on its external part and therefore we would contaminate our hands: if you have to put it on your face, you have to take it from the elastic bands;
- Likewise, when removing the mask, you must always keep in mind that its external surface can be contaminated and therefore you must throw it (if disposable) or put it in a bag if it is reusable and wash your hands immediately after this manipulation.
Once it is possible to reduce the measures of isolation and social distancing, covering the nose and mouth - if not mandatory - will be a good education rule. We will have to learn how to wear the mask just as our grandparents learned not to spit on the ground and in this way helped to limit the spread of tuberculosis.
To reduce the spread of the new coronavirus we will get used to a new normal, made of gestures and behaviors to which we must slowly (but not too much) adapt.
Pier Luigi Lopalco
“Using face masks in the community – Reducing COVID-19 transmission from potentially asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic people through the use of face masks” https://www.ecdc.europa.eu/en/publications-data/using-face-masks-community-reducing-covid-19-transmission