Melbourne: According to a recent study, cloth masks, if washed daily at high temperatures may reduce the transmission of viruses such as SARS-CoV-2, which causes Covid-19.
According to Professor Raina MacIntyre, University of New South Wales in Australia, both cloth masks and surgical masks should be considered 'contaminated' after use.
'' Unlike surgical masks, which are disposed of after use, cloth masks are re-used. While it can be tempting to use the same mask for multiple days in a row, or to give it a quick hand-wash or wipe-over, our research suggests that this increases the risk of contamination," Maclintyre said.
The researchers analyzed this data from a randomized controlled trial (RCT) published in 2015.
The researchers did a detailed and deep investigation into the 2011 data on whether the health workers in their study washed their masks daily or not, and if did, how they washed their masks.
The team found out that if cloth masks were washed in the hospital laundry, they were as effective as a surgical mask.
The study was conducted over five years ago, the researchers did not test for SARS-CoV-2, instead, they included common respiratory pathogens such as influenza, rhinoviruses, and seasonal coronaviruses in their analysis.
The study was, however, based on self-reported washing data and was conducted by health workers in high-risk wards in the healthcare sector. According to the analysis, handwashing the masks did not provide adequate protection. As the healthcare workers who self-washed their masks by hand had double the risk of infection compared to those who used the hospital laundry.
Most of the people prefer the RCT hand-wash their masks and this may be why the cloths masks performed poorly in the original trial, said the study.
Maclntyre also informed that the WHO recommends machine washing masks with hot water at 60 degrees Celsius and laundry detergent and as a result of their analysis support this recommendation.
The message from this research suggests that cloth masks do work but once a cloth mask has been worn, it needs to be washed properly every time before being worn the next time, or else it stops being effective, added Maclntyre.