Can the masks be disinfected in the microwave?

Masks that protect against coronavirus: FFP1, FFP2 or FFP3?

This is the number of times the same mask can be used

The WHO reiterates that it recommends the use of masks only in patients and their caregivers

While the Government continues to ponder whether or not to recommend the masks to go out and avoid contagion by coronavirus And while this protective equipment is still out of stock in many pharmacies and electronic stores, there are those who argue that, given its scarcity, a good solution would be to disinfect it after use using the microwave.

A study published by the University of Oxford in 2012, considers the water vapor generated in microwaves a effective disinfection method with little impact on the mask’s filtration system. The study was carried out with the H5N1 virus (bird flu), placing the masks stripped of their metal elements, next to a container with 50 ml. of water, in a commercial microwave on full power, for two minutes.

Another more recent study, this one using Covid-19, by researchers from the University of Florida, and from the US Tyndall air base, in Panama, reaches similar conclusions. For 30 minutes they subjected contaminated masks to a baked at 56ºC already the action of a hair dryer, at a similar temperature, and for the same time. The experiment concludes that the virus was inactivated, So what no damage to filter systems. The study does not mention hot air ovens, which seem to meet both conditions in a single appliance.

Do masks protect against coronavirus?

Despite these studies, scientists conclude that the ideal is do not reuse the masks and, if it is done, because there is no other choice, they have to be disinfected over 60 degrees, being preferable the washing machine – in a program to more than 60 degrees – to the microwave. “In principle, it shouldn’t be, because most masks are disposable. What happens is that given the shortage in certain areas they are being washed and disinfected. However, the ideal is, especially in the case of surgical ones ( which are what the population uses to avoid infecting others), it is to be used only once“, comments to 65Ymás the family doctor and member of the scientific committee of the Official College of Physicians of Madrid (@Icomem_Oficial), Jaime Barrio.

In addition, the doctor assures that in some health centers they are passing “through the autoclave“An industrial machine where material is usually disinfected.” They put them in a bag and thus, in theory, they are sterilized again, but, his thing is that they are discarded“, he points out. And it is that the washing of these protectors that are not thought for several uses can end up deteriorating the mask itself and that it breaks or falls apart. However, if you end up opting for this option, the temperature must exceed 60 degrees. “The virus from 56 degrees is inactivated”, Explain.

Health and WHO: masks cannot be reused

The Ministry of Health insisted this week that masks can only be used once and should be discarded after use. This is ensured in the Action Guide for People with Chronic Health Conditions and Elderly People in a Confinement Situation, published just a few days ago. In this document, it is specified which masks are used to protect against the new coronavirus cannot be reused and that they should cover the mouth and nose, so that there is no space in the face. Likewise, it is explained that you have to wash your hands before putting it on and after taking it off.

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For its part, World Health Organization (WHO) has published a report on the rational use of personal protective equipment (PPE) in which, among other considerations, it warns that masks made with cotton can be a potential source of infection since they are not resistant to fluids and therefore can retain moisture and become contaminated.

Thus, it has rejected the use of these masks by health personnel because, in addition, the microorganisms that are capable of crossing the protective barrier that cotton supposes are unknown. In the same way, it has warned that there is no scientific evidence that shows that masks made with synthetic materials are effective in protecting health professionals who care for patients with Covid-19.

On the other hand, the United Nations body has recalled that all masks, like gowns, gloves or glasses, must be sterilized before putting them on and that, once used, they must be discarded because they are “potentially” contaminated by the new coronavirus.

Masks that protect against coronavirus: FFP1, FFP2 or FFP3?

In addition, the WHO has once again rejected the use of masks for the general population, since, as it has explained, they can create a “false sense of security” and avoid practicing the measures that have been shown to be most effective such as hand washing and physical distancing. In this sense, the agency has recalled that the masks are recommended for health professionals, people infected with the new coronavirus and all those who are in close contact with a patient with Covid-19.

A study carried out in two hospitals in Seoul (South Korea) that has been published this week in the scientific journal has reached the same conclusions as the WHO Annals of Internal Medicine: neither surgical nor cotton masks are effective in preventing the spread of SARS-CoV-2 from the cough of Covid-19 patients. In this work, when coronavirus patients coughed with either type of mask, they released virus droplets in the environment and on the outer surface of the mask.