West Virginia University

Gaiters do no harm: WVU toxicologists find coverings help contain the spread of exhaled droplets

14-Aug-2020 3:35 PM EDT, by West Virginia University

Newswise — MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Experts with the West Virginia University Center for Inhalation Toxicology found that – assuming it’s a good fit - a gaiter will, despite recent reports, provide a respiratory containment of exhaled droplets comparable to a common over-the-ear cloth mask. 

“Nothing is 100 percent effective,” said Timothy Nurkiewicz, director of the WVU Center for Inhalation Toxicology, or iTOX. “But we all need to be wearing masks to protect those around us. If we can properly educate people in this regard, we consider that a win.” 

While gaiters, like most masks, do not provide filtration/respiratory protection to the user from inhaled aerosols, they did afford opposition to the spread of exhaled droplets, according to tests conducted at the WVU Inhalation Facility

This means that the gaiters work more effectively shielding others from the wearer’s exhaled air. 

“We’ve been operating on the principle all along that anything is better than nothing,” said Nurkiewicz, also chair of the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology

A viral mask study that has filled news cycles and social media feeds prompted iTOX to conduct its own tests. The study in question claims that a gaiter, a stretchy fabric that hangs around the neck and covers the mouth and nose, could be worse than wearing no mask at all, and that instead of blocking droplets that may contain SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19), gaiters split large droplets into an array of smaller droplets.

In his analysis, Nurkiewicz referenced the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention which illustrates that when droplets pass through pores of fibrous materials such as those in masks, one of four outcomes occur as supported by existing literature: inertial impaction, interception, diffusion and electrostatic attraction. 

“Dispersion is not one of these,” Nurkiewicz said. “When a droplet hits a mask, it does not break into two. It doesn’t happen.” 

The iTOX team tested a gaiter made of 100 percent polyester. This particular WVU-branded gaiter has been offered to students, faculty and staff who complete their return-to-campus COVID-19 test. 

Gasping for evidence

Two types of tests were conducted on the gaiter: a fit test, which evaluates how well a mask protects the person wearing the mask, and a materials test, in which the ability of the fabric alone to filter air passing through it was tested. 

For the fit test, researchers filled up a room with saline droplets and sampled the air in real time. They then measured the concentration of droplets on the inside and outside of the mask, Nurkiewicz said. 

The WVU gaiter scored a “1” on the fit test. A score of 100 is necessary to pass a N95 mask. 

The gaiter polyester scored a “3” on the materials test, indicating that it filtered out two-thirds of the droplets when airflow passed through it. Adding another layer of the material did not improve the outcome, the team found. 

These scores are comparable to common face coverings currently in use, such as cloth masks, said Travis Goldsmith, iTOX senior research engineer. 

They also performed fit and material testing on the two-layer, 100 percent cotton WVU mask, which is also offered to the WVU community upon return-to-campus COVID-19 testing. The mask scored similarly to the gaiter. Nurkiewicz added that “cotton has an advantage over polyester in that it absorbs droplets and has the potential to hold on to them better.” 

“With any type of loose-fitting mask, even a surgical mask, aerosols are going to easily come around and through the gaps, like the spaces around the nose and the sides,” Goldsmith said. 

“But since the mask is close to the mouth, high-velocity flow events from the mask user, such as coughing or talking, will cause many expelled droplets to impact the inner surface of the mask. Further, any mouth covering dissipates and spreads the flow velocity from the user, which will cause aerosols to travel shorter distances.” 

The main purpose of the viral study, Nurkiewicz said, centered around a low-cost, efficient means for non-scientists to test masks and their effectiveness. The result was a novel technique based on a laser plane on a cell phone. 

“It’s really neat, and they should be commended for developing this,” he said. “You can point a camera and exhale particles across the plane and those particles light up and you can take pictures of it. Then a computer counts the dots in each frame.” 

The problem with the investigators’ dispersion claim, however, is that the findings are based on estimates from photos with limited resolution and pixel sizes, rather than direct measures of actual droplets in real-time, Nurkiewicz said. In the WVU tests, researchers directly measured the size of aerosolized droplets in real-time with multiple state-of-the-art pieces of equipment. 

Mask up

After their series of tests, iTOX researchers contend that a mask/gaiter combination provides a much-improved level of protection for the user and for those within proximity of the user. 

Goldsmith said a gaiter worn over a disposable mask proved more effective in filtering and containing droplets. 

“This does add some heat stress to the user, but it is estimated that it would be tolerable/wearable for multiple hours of low-effort activities (such as attending class),” the team wrote. 

In the end, any face covering is better than nothing and provides reasonable opposition of droplet transmission between two people within close proximity. 

“We see no reason to stop distributing the WVU gaiter,” Nurkiewicz said. “The evidence just isn’t there. It’s not doing any harm. 

“It isn't just that you're wearing a mask to protect yourself. If five people are in a room and we’re all wearing a mask, we’re collectively decreasing the energy and the direction of particles that are being mixed. If one of us takes a mask off, we're suddenly putting the others at risk.” 

-WVU- 

js/08/14/20 




Filters close

Showing results

110 of 3395
Newswise: Historical Racial & Ethnic Health Inequities Account for Disproportionate COVID-19 Impact
22-Sep-2020 4:00 PM EDT
Historical Racial & Ethnic Health Inequities Account for Disproportionate COVID-19 Impact
American Thoracic Society (ATS)

A new Viewpoint piece published online in the Annals of the American Thoracic Society examines the ways in which COVID-19 disproportionately impacts historically disadvantaged communities of color in the United States, and how baseline inequalities in our health system are amplified by the pandemic. The authors also discuss potential solutions.

Released: 24-Sep-2020 5:05 PM EDT
In-person college instruction leading to thousands of COVID-19 cases per day in US
University of Washington

Reopening university and college campuses with primarily in-person instruction is associated with a significant increase in cases of COVID-19 in the counties where the schools are located.

Newswise: Some Severe COVID-19 Cases Linked to Genetic Mutations or Antibodies that Attack the Body
Released: 24-Sep-2020 3:25 PM EDT
Some Severe COVID-19 Cases Linked to Genetic Mutations or Antibodies that Attack the Body
Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI)

Two new studies offer an explanation for why COVID-19 cases can be so variable. A subset of patients has mutations in key immunity genes; other patients have auto-antibodies that target the same components of the immune system. Both circumstances could contribute to severe forms of the disease.

access_time Embargo lifts in 2 days
Embargo will expire: 25-Sep-2020 6:30 PM EDT Released to reporters: 24-Sep-2020 3:20 PM EDT

A reporter's PressPass is required to access this story until the embargo expires on 25-Sep-2020 6:30 PM EDT The Newswise PressPass gives verified journalists access to embargoed stories. Please log in to complete a presspass application. If you have not yet registered, please Register. When you fill out the registration form, please identify yourself as a reporter in order to advance to the presspass application form.

17-Sep-2020 1:15 PM EDT
Accuracy of commercial antibody kits for SARS-CoV-2 varies widely
PLOS

There is wide variation in the performance of commercial kits for detecting antibodies against severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), according to a study published September 24 in the open-access journal PLOS Pathogens by Jonathan Edgeworth and Blair Merrick of Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, Suzanne Pickering and Katie Doores of King's College London, and colleagues. As noted by the authors, the rigorous comparison of antibody testing platforms will inform the deployment of point-of-care technologies in healthcare settings and their use in monitoring SARS-CoV-2 infections.

24-Sep-2020 9:25 AM EDT
Loneliness levels high during COVID-19 lockdown
Newswise Review

During the initial phase of COVID-19 lockdown, rates of loneliness among people in the UK were high and were associated with a number of social and health factors, according to a new study published this week in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Jenny Groarke of Queen’s University Belfast, UK, and colleagues.

Newswise: Genetic, immunological abnormalities in Type I interferon pathway are risk factors for severe COVID-19
24-Sep-2020 12:35 PM EDT
Genetic, immunological abnormalities in Type I interferon pathway are risk factors for severe COVID-19
Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USU)

Individuals with severe forms of COVID-19 disease can present with compromised type I interferon (IFN) responses based on their genetics, according to results published in two papers today in the journal Science. Type I IFN responses are critical for protecting cells and the body from more severe disease after acute viral infection.

Newswise: Talking Alone: Researchers Use Artificial Intelligence Tools to Predict Loneliness
Released: 24-Sep-2020 1:45 PM EDT
Talking Alone: Researchers Use Artificial Intelligence Tools to Predict Loneliness
University of California San Diego Health

A team led by researchers at University of California San Diego School of Medicine has used artificial intelligence technologies to analyze natural language patterns to discern degrees of loneliness in older adults.


Showing results

110 of 3395

close
1.79011