Universal masking during COVID-19 pandemic: Can textile engineering help public health? Narrative review of the evidence.Prev Med. 2020 10; 139:106236.PM
The Coronavirus Disease-2019 (COVID-19) pandemic caused by the virus SARS-CoV-2 is spreading very quickly around the world. In less than 7 months since it became known to the international community, the virus has infected 18 million in more than 180 countries and killing more than 700,000 people. Person-to-person transmission through infected respiratory droplets from patients with symptoms and asymptomatic carriers is the main mode of spread in the community. There is currently no standard agreed upon drug to treat the disease and the prospect of having a safe and efficacious vaccine might be years away. Thus, public health interventions such as social distancing and hand washing have been introduced and has, to some extent, slowed the progression of the pandemic. Universal masking as a public health intervention is currently mandatory in a vast majority of countries around the world. To avoid personal protective equipment (PPE) shortage crisis for medical staff and other frontline workers, health authorities are recommending the use cloth masks. Although in theory, cloth masks can be helpful to limit the spread of the COVID-19, serious consideration should be given to the choice of textile, the number of layers of cloth used, pre-treatment of the material with water repellent material and other compounds that can enhance the filtration efficiency of the masks without compromising their breathability. This review uses concepts of textile engineering and the theoretical principles of filtration to make suggestions and recommendations to improve the quality and safety of cloth masks for the general public.