Everyone is aware of the shortage of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and the sorry state our health care workers are in without the basic infection protection. Many industries use PPE but the current shortage with the Covid-19 Virus pandemic is a true crisis for health care. The types of PPE are face shields, gloves, goggles and glasses, gowns, head covers, masks, respirators and shoe covers.
Healthcare organizations are asking for PPE donations from other industry and the federal government has promised to deploy equipment from the National Stockpile. Americans want to help and many have taken to their sewing machines to create homemade masks and gowns to supply medical professionals.
The British Medical Journal (BMJ) studied cloth masks ( two layer, made of cotton) vs. medical masks (3 layer made of non-woven material) in 2015 and compared the infection efficacy of the two. Participants used the mask on every shift for four consecutive weeks. They were asked to wash the cloth masks every day at the end of the shift.
The researchers found that the rate of infection was significantly higher with the cloth masks and they recommended caution with the use of cloth masks, especially in high-risk situations. They also found no benefit from double masking with cloth and the increased moisture actually increased the infection rate.
The study specifically looked at Corona Viruses (SARS, SARS-CoV), influenza, parainfluenza and RSV. The particle penetration through the cloth masks was very high at 97% compared to medical masks of 44%. The penetration with fitted N-95 masks is under 0.1%. (not used in this study)
Making a cloth mask for caregivers is a wonderful gesture. But it does not substitute for medical equipment and will not prevent the spread of Corona Covid-19 or other common viruses.