Covid-19: Can surgical masks be reused?

PARIS: Well being authorities say essentially the most widespread anti-Covid weapon — surgical masks — have to be thrown away after a single use, however environmental issues are pushing some scientists to query this suggestion.
Because the coronavirus continues to unfold, masks have in lots of locations turn into necessary on public transport, in outlets and at work.
However price has turn into a difficulty, as has the actual fact so many disposable plastic masks wind up in waterways and the oceans.
One different is reusable material masks, however many individuals choose single-use surgical masks as a result of they’re lighter and individually cheaper.
“Medical masks are for single use solely,” the World Well being Group has stated. “Discard the masks instantly, ideally right into a closed bin.”
However confronted with shortages through the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic in March and April, the WHO allowed in a June report for “distinctive procedures” to disinfect throw-away masks for reuse.
The US Meals and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends — in emergency circumstances — hydrogen peroxide vapour to decontaminate the N95 masks worn by healthcare employees.
Different strategies to purify single-use masks embrace exposing them to excessive temperatures or ultraviolet radiation.
However these strategies are inconvenient for individuals at dwelling, stated French microbiologist and member of Adios Corona, Denis Corpet.
Adios Corona — a bunch of scientists who present info on Covid-19 to the general public — recommends “putting the masks in a paper envelope with the date clearly marked, and leaving it for seven days”.
“A number of scientific research present that viruses are nearly all useless on a masks after seven days,” stated Corpet.
A examine printed in The Lancet discovered that solely 0.1 p.c of the virus on the surface floor of the masks was nonetheless detectable after one week.
This methodology, nevertheless, just isn’t acceptable for healthcare employees uncovered to excessive viral masses.
Peter Tsai, the inventor of N95 electrostatically charged filter materials, agrees with the seven-day methodology.
However he suggests leaving used masks out within the open for per week earlier than reuse, a cycle he says may be repeated 5 to 10 instances.
Disposable masks may also be positioned within the oven, Tsai instructed AFP, ideally at a temperature between 70 and 75 levels Celsius (158 and 167 levels Fahrenheit) — not too excessive to keep away from burning the plastic, however sufficiently sizzling to kill the virus.
Washing masks in a washer, nevertheless, just isn’t a good suggestion.
“Washing with out detergent might not wash away the virus,” Tsai stated. “And washing with detergent will erase the (electrostatic) fees,” diminishing its effectivity.
French shoppers’ rights group UFC-Que Choisir washed surgical masks at 60C, put them within the dryer, and ironed them. After 10 such cycles, the masks nonetheless filtered at the very least 90 p.c of 3-micron particles.
“Aside from a slight felting, the washed surgical masks had been at the very least as environment friendly as one of the best material masks,” UFC-Que Choisir reported final week.
Researcher Philippe Vroman from French engineering college Ensait got here to the identical conclusion.
After 5 washes, “there are virtually no variations (of filtration) for particles of three microns,” Vroman stated, on the premise of preliminary outcomes not but printed in a peer-reviewed scientific journal.
“And I’d somewhat we swap masks each 4 hours and wash them, somewhat than carrying them a number of days in a row as some individuals do. It’s kind of like underwear,” he stated.
However not all scientists agree.
“Washing the masks at dwelling may doubtlessly trigger a secondary contamination and unfold the virus if washing just isn’t set appropriately,” stated Kaiming Ye, head of the biomedical engineering division at New York’s Binghamton College.
Till extra analysis is printed on the matter, official recommendation from well being authorities just isn’t set to alter.
“Single-use surgical masks have to be thrown into the bin after use,” stated France’s well being authority DGS, however famous that extra research had been underway.

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