Masks could limit the virus dose and be a ‘form of inoculation’

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Masks could limit the virus dose and be a ‘form of inoculation’

They could be giving people Covid-19 immunity and reducing the severity of the virus, scientists say

Georgina Hayes

Masks may be giving people Covid-19 immunity and making them get less sick from the virus, academics have suggested in one of the most respected medical journals in the world.

The commentary, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, advances a hypothesis that universal wearing of masks might be helping to reduce the severity of the virus and ensuring that a greater proportion of new infections are asymptomatic. If this is borne out, the academics argue, 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.

Increasing evidence suggests that the amount of virus someone is exposed to at the start of infection – the “infectious dose” – may determine the severity of their illness. A large study published in the Lancet last month found that “viral load at diagnosis” was an “independent predictor of mortality” in hospital patients. Wearing masks could 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...

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