Facemasks offer protection against Covid-19, but can they offer immunity too?
Face masks may be inadvertently giving people Covid-19 immunity and making them get less sick from the virus, suggest academics in new research published in a medical journal.
The hypothesis is published in the New England Journal of Medicine and advances the unproven but promising theory that universal face mask wearing might be helping to reduce the severity of the virus.
Academics argue in the paper that is the hypothesis is proven true, then universal mask-wearing could become a form of inoculation that would generate immunity and "thereby slow the spread of the virus in the United States and elsewhere" as the world awaits a vaccine.
According to The Telegraph UK, the research comes as increasing evidence suggests that the amount of virus someone is exposed to at the start of infection may determine the severity of their illness.
Wearing masks could therefore reduce the infectious dose that the wearer is exposed to and, subsequently, the impact of the disease, as masks filter out some virus-containing droplets.
The WHO has recommended wearing a mask and certain health-governing bodies, especially in India have made wearing masks in public places mandatory.
In India, wearing masks were made compulsory during the Covid-19 induced lockdown. Dr Shailja Vaidya Gupta who was instrumental behind the move also came up with the idea of home-made masks.
"We were looking at a country which not only has different demography but immensely dense pockets where isolation and social-distancing is a luxury," said Dr Gupta in an interview to News18.
Senior Adviser to the Office of the Principal Scientific Adviser, she said that masks were the solution forward in India's case.
"There was the debate that it could, and could not help. Then the World Health Organization issued an advisory and many scientific papers had proved that Covid-19 spread through aerosols. This lead to us implementing masks," she said.
The transfer of the virus currently has been traced to be through respiratory droplets, touching surfaces infected by the virus, and through aerosols transferred by sneezing, couching or even talking. The simple way to stop them, as advised by the WHO has been face covers--- masks, handkerchiefs or anything (even an old T-shirt) to cover your mouth and nose.