According to various studies, assessments and researches conducted, transmission of COVID-19 within families and close contacts accounts for the majority of epidemic growth. Hence, indoor masking is highly effective in curbing transmission - but only before symptoms emerge
Since the past few days Dr Om Murti Anil, a senior consultant cardiologist at Nepal Cardiac Centre, has been sharing awareness videos accompanied by various studies and research evidences on why people should start wearing masks inside their homes as well, and refrain from inviting guests via his Facebook handle which has more than a million followers.
His effort to make people aware has come at a time when Nepal is dealing with the deadlier, more infectious new wave of the pandemic, with hospitals across the country reeling under acute shortage of medical oxygen, ICU and ventilator beds in view of the rising number of infections.
To know more in detail, THT spoke to Dr Anil, who has been actively researching and studying about the need of the aforementioned precaution, since May 2020.
"Everyone should start wearing masks inside their homes as well to keep the coronavirus (COVID-19) at bay,'' informed Dr Anil.
The reason behind this recommendation according to Dr Anil is that COVID-19 spreads primarily from person-to-person through respiratory droplets, which travel in the air when someone coughs, sneezes, talks, shout or sings. These droplets, which stay suspended in the air for at least three hours (as per The New England Journal of Medicine), can then land in the mouths or noses of people in the vicinity, or may be breathed in.
And though infected "a large group of population does not show symptoms.
Thus, the asymptomatic people can continue to spread the infection at home, at a faster pace" as per him.
Giving an example he said, "If an individual from a family is infected but has no symptoms, he while dining, talking, coughing, sneezing spreads large number of virus in the air. These
viruses tend to float around and there's a high chance of its transmission to family members."
Dr Anil sees this as a reason why cases are rising in the nation. "We are overlooking this fact and this is a less talked-about issue. In my view, there isn't a single family who has been wearing mask inside home. But everyone should start wearing it. That is why we have been seeing entire families, in this wave, testing positive, even when most of them have stayed indoors," he shared, while also revealing that his family has been wearing masks inside the home too.
Dr Anil's recommendation aligns well with the various studies and researches conducted across the globe.
A retrospective cohort study of 335 people in 124 families and with at least one laboratory confirmed COV- ID-19 case conducted from February 28 to March 27, 2020, in Beijing, China has stated that transmission of COV- ID-19 within families and close contacts accounts for the majority of epidemic growth.
As per this study, accepted for publication in the British Medical Journal, indoor masking is 79 per cent effective in curbing transmission - but only before symptoms emerge.
Meanwhile, wearing a mask after illness onset of the primary case was not significantly protective. The risk of household transmission was 18 times higher with frequent daily close contact with the primary case and four times higher if the primary case had diarrhoea.
Similarly, a new assessment published in The Lancet journal said there is consistent, strong evidence to prove that the SARS-CoV-2 virus, behind the COVID-19 pandemic, is predominantly transmitted through the air.
Furthermore, a study of US Centres for Disease Control and Protection (CDC), shows the that there is a high level of benefit of indoor masking. The CDC stated that masks should still be worn in addition to staying at least six feet apart, especially when indoors around people who don't live in your household.
Likewise, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Service too has stated that there is a negligible risk of transmission when there is a distance of six feet between two persons and when both of them are wearing masks.
According to the data illustrated, the risk is 1.5 per cent (low) when both people are wearing masks, five per cent (medium) when only the infected person is wearing a mask and uninfected persons are unmasked, 30 per cent (high) if the infected person is not wearing a mask but the uninfected person is wearing one, and 90 per cent (highest) when neither the infected nor the uninfected person is wearing a mask.
Appealing to everyone to stay safe and wear masks even inside their homes, Dr Anil said, "It's high time we considered wearing mask inside homes too. It's better if you are staying at a well ventilated space as traces of virus would float out easily."
He added, "Let's wear mask and keep our loved one safe and sound."
A version of this article appears in the print on May 9, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.