New Study on Face Mask Effectiveness
A newly released meta-analysis on the use of face masks for reducing the transmission of viral respiratory infections within community settings shows the evidence for their effectiveness is equivocal at best.
Titled, “Face masks to prevent community transmission of viral respiratory infections: A rapid evidence review using Bayesian analysis,” the study analyzed eleven randomized, controlled trials and 10 observational studies, concluding:
“Available evidence from RCTs is equivocal as to whether or not wearing face masks in community settings results in a reduction in clinically- or laboratory-confirmed viral respiratory infections. No relevant studies concerned SARS-CoV-2 or were undertaken in community settings in the UK.”
Here is an example they provided of the highly equivocal nature of their study findings:
“One study found lower rates of self-reported symptoms of influenza-like illness (ILI) in the intervention compared with the control arm; however, in secondary analyses with laboratory-confirmed ILI, the rate of infection was less in the control arm than the intervention arm.”
The researchers pointed out that there is considerable controversy on the topic of the effectiveness of mask wearing, and proper risk/benefit analyses should be conducted given their implications to health policy.
They noted that while face masks filter droplets believed to contain viruses like SARS-CoV-2, they also have a number of drawbacks. For instance, if not used correctly, they:
“...may even increase transmission if they act as fomites [objects or materials which are likely to carry infection] or prompt other behaviours that transmit the virus such as face touching. For example, a face mask that has been worn for several hours becomes moist and acts as a potential source of contamination. Studies show that people touch their faces 15-23 times per hour on average (9,10), and this may mean that eyes and contaminated face masks are touched, spreading the virus."
The researchers commented on the implications of their findings for policy and practice:
"While the potentially biased self-reported outcomes from RCTs suggest a small benefit of face mask wearing, findings on clinically- and laboratory-confirmed infection remain equivocal. In addition, none of the studies concerned SARS-CoV-2 and none were conducted in the UK. All were in community settings that were different in many respects from the situation pertaining to SARS-CoV-2 in the UK. In light of this, judgements about the benefits or harms of wearing face masks will have to be made using a priori arguments rather than the data reviewed here: the scientific evidence should be considered equivocal. Such arguments should pay special attention to specific settings where the risk of infection is high and the opportunity for physical distancing is low (e.g. on crowded public transport), and to the need for education and training to maximise the potential benefits of wearing masks and mitigate the risk that they will transmit infection by acting as fomites."
This study was the subject of a recent article titled, "Four potential consequences of wearing face masks we need to be wary of" published on www.theconversation.com, and which is well worth reading.
Clearly, in a time and age when mandatory medical interventions, including so-called non-pharmaceutical interventions such as social distancing, hand-washing, and mask wearing, are increasingly being implemented and institutionalized under the auspices of the public safety, we need to let the evidence itself (and not simply fear and a desire to control) guide these public health decisions and policies. When the evidence of safety and effectiveness is lacking, or worse, when there is evidence of unsafety and ineffectiveness, it is our job to inform ourselves and others, and not consent to unethical, unlawful, or unconstitutional orders that violate our health and bodily sovereignty. Join the non-profit, health freedom advocacy project www.Standforhealthfreedom.com to learn more about your rights and what you can do to protect them.
Read full article at GreenMedinfo
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Four potential consequences of wearing face masks we need to be wary of
If healthcare workers wear surgical masks, there is good evidence that it limits the spread of respiratory viral infections in hospitals. But there is no clear evidence that surgical masks protect members of the public from getting or passing on these sorts of infections – most likely because of incorrect use. For cloth masks worn by the public, the picture is even murkier.
Surgical masks are made up of several layers of non-woven plastic and can effectively filter very small particles, such as droplets of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19). The masks typically contain an external waterproof layer and an internal absorbent layer.
Although masks made from scarves, T-shirts or other fabrics can’t provide the same level of protection and durability as surgical masks, they can block some of the large droplets exhaled by the wearer, hence protecting others from viral exposure. But their ability to filter droplets depends on their construction. Multi-layered cloth masks are better at filtering but harder to breathe through. And they become wetter quicker than single-layer masks.
The question we need to ask is not so much whether cloth masks offer as good a protection as surgical masks (we know that they don’t, and perhaps that’s fine), but whether there are serious unintended consequences of recommending their widespread use by members of the public.
When deciding if a safety measure is worth introducing at scale, it’s important to balance any benefits against potential harms. Here are four potential consequences that, unless mitigated against, could make things worse. Forewarned is forearmed.