It may be time to upgrade your mask


Many experts say that cloth and surgical masks do not provide adequate protection, and instead encourage N95 or FFP2 coatings.

Upgraded masks are already the norm in large parts of Europe. Germany imposes FFP2 coatings in shops, on public transport and other public places. Neighboring Austria on Tuesday made FFP2 masks mandatory outdoors, where it is not possible to keep a minimum of two meters from people outside one’s household, and they have been required indoors since last month.

Italy mandated the heavy masks to enter stadiums, museums, cinemas and theaters and use public transport from December. And in Greece, anyone who has left self-isolation must wear them in any public place for five days.

The different terminology for the masks can be confusing, but all terms refer to the level of filtration that the tire offers – and there is no doubt that FFP2, N95 or KN95 models provide better protection than those made of cloth or other substances.

Dust masks – encouraged earlier in the pandemic – can stop large droplets, while more effective masks can also filter out smaller aerosols or particles potentially filled with airborne viruses.

Properly fitted N95 respirators approved by the US National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health can filter up to 95% of the particles in the air, according to the CDC.

FFP2 or N95 masks are already required in parts of Europe.

A fabric face covering, on the other hand, also has 75% inward and outward leakage, which the US Conference on State Industrial Hygiene defines as “the percentage of particles entering the face mask” and “the percentage of particles exhaled by a source. leaving the face mask, “respectively.

People who are concerned about the best way to protect themselves and their loved ones during this wave of Omicron variants should “get the highest quality mask that you can tolerate and that is available to you,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Tuesday, signaling a shift in official advice.

The problem so far is that filtration masks are generally more expensive, a little less comfortable to wear, and earlier in the pandemic, they were not always widely available.

That explains why the CDC has so far actively encouraged members of the public to buy N95 masks – currently stating on its website that they should be “prioritized for healthcare professionals.”

But Fauci told CNN that “right now, [there] It does not seem to be missing the masks that were not available some time ago. “

“What the CDC has said – and it is being misinterpreted – they say wearing any mask is better than no mask at all,” Fauci said. “But there is a degree of ability to prevent you from getting infected and from transmitting it to someone else. So we should wear the best possible masks that we can get. That is a fact.”

CNN’s Nina Avramova contributed reporting

YOU ASKED. WE ANSWERED.

Q: When is it safe to leave isolation if I have had Covid-19?

ONE: Guidance on isolation times is constantly changing around the world – and can be confusing and contradictory at times.

If you have tested positive, the first step is to check what the guide is, where you are. In the US, people can leave isolation after five days if their symptoms have disappeared – no negative test is required – and they should then wear a mask around people for five more days.

In other countries it can be up to 14 days. However, several regions allow early exit from isolation if patients are asymptomatic, leaving it up to you to assess whether to do so.

The chance that you are still contagious decreases as time goes on. The longer you stay isolated, the less likely you are to expose someone else to the virus. Ten days after being tested positive, the percentage of people who are still contagious is estimated to be around 5%, according to researchers at the UK Health Safety Agency.

But on day five, the end of the CDC isolation period, a significant percentage of people (31%) are still contagious. On day seven, the percentage of people who are still contagious drops by half – to about 16%.

If you have access to a quick antigen test, it may be helpful to take one or two during your isolation. Combining a negative result with self-evaluation of your symptoms will help you reach a conclusion on whether to leave isolation at the earliest time allowed in your country.

Post your questions here. Are you a health worker fighting Covid-19? Send us a message on WhatsApp about the challenges you face: +1 347-322-0415.

WEEKLY READINGS

Covid cases in children are on the rise. The schools are not prepared

When Covid-19 cases skyrocketed in the UK in late December, Stuart Guest spent his holiday researching scientific reports on air purification and filtration systems.

Guest, a headmaster at a primary school in Birmingham, England, searched Amazon for affordable air purifiers in hopes of stopping the more transferable Omicron variant from spreading among his 460 pupils, aged between 3 and 11 years.

“I got what I think is the best air purifier for the budget I have available. I hope I’ve got something that does the job, but I’m not an expert. And there has been no guidance issued by the Ministry of Education. I have have had to do it all myself and I should not do it when it is a national crisis, “said Guest.

Millions of British students have returned to school after the Christmas and New Year holidays, amid a record-breaking increase in infections and hospitalizations. For teachers and parents, the situation has brought a gloomy sense of déjà vu, writes Eliza Mackintosh.

And in the United States, more children are being hospitalized than ever before. The Biden administration has said schools are “more than equipped” to remain open as Omicron tears across the country.

But some elected officials err on the side of caution by postponing the new term while a teachers’ union forced public schools in Chicago, Illinois, to close for a week due to criticism from members that classroom conditions are dangerous.

Beijing on high alert as China’s first Omicron cluster approaches before the Olympics

Officials in Beijing are on high alert just weeks after the start of the Winter Olympics, after China’s first local outbreak of the Omicron variant spread from the northern port city of Tianjin to central Henan province.

Tianjin, located just 80 miles southeast of Beijing, reported at least 40 positive cases over the weekend, including 24 children, though health authorities have not yet confirmed whether they are infected with Omicron.

But the virus has already spread far beyond the city. State media reported Monday that two more Omicron cases had been identified in Anyang city, Henan province, more than 300 miles from Tianjin, Nectar Gan and Steve George report.

In recent months, Chinese authorities have imposed increasingly stringent restrictions on curbing local Covid flare-ups as Beijing prepares for the Olympics. An Omicron outburst on the doorstep of the capital just weeks before the Games start on February 4 represents something of a nightmare scenario for officials – who are now likely to step up efforts to protect Beijing.

No, you should not deliberately catch Omicron to ‘get it over with’

The question hung in the air like a bad smell and made the small group of fully vaccinated and boosted friends and family shut up at my dinner table.

“Why not just get Omicron and get it over with? It’s mild, right? And it can boost immunity?” The fully vaccinated, boosted, well-educated friend who asked was sincere and repeated opinions heard on many social platforms.

The idea of ​​deliberately trying to capture Omicron is “absolutely furious,” said Dr. Paul Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, with an annoyed sigh.

“It’s caught like a steppe fire,” said Dr. Robert Murphy, Executive Director of the Havey Institute for Global Health at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

“And it’s widespread and comes from all types of people, the vaccinated and the boosted and the anti-waxes,” he added with a warning. “You would be crazy to try to get infected with this. It’s like playing with dynamite.”

TOP TIP

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration warns against adding self-collected throat swabs to nose Covid-19 tests and says people should use the tests as directed.

“FACTS: When it comes to home-fast antigen # COVID19 tests, these are inoculations for your nose and not your throat,” it said on Twitter.

Why the warning? After anecdotal reports of strep throat with coronavirus infection and early studies suggesting that saliva may be a better way to detect the Omicron variant, some people started taking antigen samples intended for nasal samples and using them to wash their throats.

The home test alignment gained momentum after people started posting their results on social media with the hashtag #SwabYourThroat.

The FDA warned last week that throat swabs “are more complicated than nasal swabs – and if used incorrectly, they can cause harm to the patient. The CDC recommends that throat swabs be collected by a trained health care provider.”

Throat tests are common in some places, such as the UK, but in the US most self-tests require nose tests; a few involve saliva collected by spitting in a tube.

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