Home Opinion Halima Imam: The Mask, a people and a pandemic

Halima Imam: The Mask, a people and a pandemic

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By Halima Imam

Covid19 pandemic have not just claimed lives and left millions hospitalized around the World, it has made us all vulnerable. The fact that new discoveries keep coming to light regarding the virus and up to the minute deadly strains of the virus unearths, we are in constant panic.

Anyone could be a carrier, according to medical experts and scientists; which means that each and every one of us must adhere to the precautions or end up as a patient in already overflowing hospitals and an additional case for our exhausted medical and other healthcare providers to handle.

We have been asked to constantly wear a mask if we are in crowded places because a place that has clusters of people is a super spreader zone. Since the World Health Organization, the Centres for Disease Control and other experts have strongly advised that masks be worn to help slow the spread of the virus, people have produced all sorts of face masks. We even have fancy surgical masks now, fast fashion seem to be having ‘a swell time’ as business is booming.

It is a fact that not all respirator masks are created equally, the filtering face piece or FFP fits snugly around the nose, mouth and chin, filters out the tiniest airborne particles. The most effective type lets no virus in or out. An exhalation valve makes breathing easier, such masks protects both the wearer and the people they encounter. FFP masks are said to be in short supply Worldwide, so they should be preserved exclusively  for health care workers. The surgical mask consists of several layers of paper or non-woven fabric with a thin wire to make it fit over the nose.

When a person wearing a surgical mask coughs or sneezes, the mask blocks large droplets but on inhalation air flows in over the sides, which means it mainly protects others from infection rather than the wearer. Once the mask is wet from breathing after eight hours wearing time at the most, it has to be discarded.

Due to the pandemic, professionally manufactured masks have been in short supply. That has led to a flourishing cottage industry in DIY masks. A textile mask functions like a protective mask made of paper but generally has a poor seal and blocks only a third of the droplets that a surgical mask does according to studies. However clothe masks can be washed and reused.

It is a fact that the world has to mask up with countries spelling out punishment to defaulters; this have forced some people to fall into the greater risk of reusing every kind of mask. A lot of Nigerians for instance are seen wearing the face mask but some people put themselves in jeopardy of being infected with diseases due to prolonged use of their masks.

On the streets one can see taxis with masks hanging from their rear view mirror, very dirty and mostly dusty. The drivers rushing to wear it upon seeing security operatives and inhaling whatever germs must be feasting on the mask.

Local motorcycle operatives who carry passengers around in small towns, driving under the sun and continually touching their mask with their dirty hands, do not mind wearing their masks for two weeks straight. The fact that some people have refused to understand that disposable face masks are actually to be discarded after one use is insane.

Some who are neat enough will wash the disposable masks and use them until they begin to tear, yet others change the word from ‘disposable’ to ‘reusable’, they don’t wash nor dispose.

A study was carried out by Inside Edition in November 2020 on the consequences of not washing reusable face masks and a sample which the owner had wore every day without washing came back with a bacteria count of 680 million, a normal count should be about ten thousand.

Four types of bacteria were found on the masks; some of the bacteria’s cause severe skin infections, pneumonia. Chances are people might begin to come down with infections and diseases that might even become terminal. Germs and all sorts of bacteria grow and multiply on dirty face masks and the consequences might be dire.

We are told every day that practicing social distancing and washing of hands for up to twenty seconds helps prevent coronavirus from spreading.  Using alcohol based sanitizers are also on the list, staying in well ventilated places and avoiding to touch our eyes, nose and mouth is also important if we want to slow down the virus.

However the measure that everyone actually adheres to is masking. Individuals and organizations involved with public health must continue to spread the word, the government should enforce people wear masks  and should be willing and ready to provide when necessary.

It is paramount to wear a mask if we are to be our brother’s keeper. We must make sure that it is disposed if it was manufactured that way, wash our reusable masks on a daily basis and sundry if possible. Coronavirus is real, wear a mask to protect yourself and others, wash your reusable mask to protect yourself from germs and infection. Stay safe

Halima Imam, Founder of Climate Action Team, writes from axk4lima@gmail.com