faced with the Omicron variant, should the wearing of FFP2 masks be generalized?

To deal with the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2, should the use of FFP2 type masks, which are more filtering than so-called surgical masks, be extended? Due to the great contagiousness of this variant, several European countries have generalized the wearing of these masks in certain places.

Questioned on the subject by deputies, Wednesday, December 29, the Minister of Health, Olivier Véran, said he had sought the opinion of the High Council of Public Health “On the issue of FFP2 masks, in particular for caregivers, given the very strong circulation of the Omicron variant and so as to avoid paralysis in certain completely essential services”. In hospitals, the FFP2 mask is mainly used in the wards welcoming many Covid-19 patients, in intensive care or in the surgical unit.

Initially reserved for healthcare professionals in particular, these masks are now sold in pharmacies or in stores. Some people, at risk or simply more worried about the virus, already carry it.

Read also FFP2, surgical or fabric mask: what are the latest recommendations?

Better filtering capacity

The FFP2 meets European standard EN 149 (equivalent to N95 or KN95 standards in other countries). It protects the respiratory tract against fine and toxic particles, dust or certain viruses, and protects both its wearer and those around it.

It has a filtering capacity of 94% of particles of 0.6 micrometers. One of the advantages of FFP2, when properly put on, is that it encompasses the entire face, from under the eyes to the chin, without air escaping or entering through or around the edges of the mask. of the nose. Indeed, the effectiveness of a mask depends both on its filtration and its adjustment on the face of the wearer.

The surgical mask – the most widely used today – has the drawback of not being airtight. Fairly loose, it can let in very small droplets, or aerosols, which can remain in the air when a place is poorly ventilated. It is also advisable to change it every four hours, against eight for an FFP2.

A study published on December 7 in the journal PNAS confirmed the effectiveness of FFP2 to protect and protect against the virus. According to researchers at the Universities of Göttingen (Germany) and Cornell (USA), if a person uninfected with SARS-CoV-2 wears a surgical mask during a discussion with an unmasked infected person at a distance of ‘1.50 m, the maximum risk of infection reaches 90% after thirty minutes. With an FFP2 mask, this risk drops to almost 20%, even after a one hour discussion. If both people wear a surgical mask, the maximum risk is less than 30%, even after an hour. But if both individuals wear a properly fitted FFP2 mask, then this risk drops to a maximum of 0.4%.

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