Does Wearing a Mask Prevent the Coronavirus?

For many years, scientists weren't sure if wearing a mask was effective at preventing the spread of viruses. However, recent studies suggest that they can help.

First, a 2008 study published in the International Journal of Infectious Diseases concluded that when used correctly, masks are highly effective in preventing the spread of viral infections. Family members of children with flu-like illnesses who used the masks properly were 80 percent less likely to be diagnosed with the illness. Surprisingly, the difference between types of masks used was insignificant.

Another study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine reported similar results. Researchers looked at 400 people who had the flu. They found that family members reduced their risk of getting the flu by 70 percent when they washed their hands often and wore surgical masks.

Other studies found promising results outside of the household. For example, one such study was conducted by a team of researchers from the University of MichiganTrusted Source on more than 1,000 students living in residence halls. They assigned the student to groups: those who wore masks, those who wore masks and practiced hand hygiene, and those who did neither. The results showed that those who wore masks in residence halls and practiced good handwashing reduced their risk of flu-like illness by an astonishing 75 percent.

Still, the study found no reduction in symptoms for mask use alone. This finding suggests that the use of masks should always be paired with regular handwashing.