January 13, 2021

Mask up

Word has come that a troop of gorillas at the San Diego Zoo have tested positive for SARS-CoV-2. Some of them had been coughing, so they were tested and had positive tests. So far they have some congestion and mild coughing but seem to be doing OK. The Zoo assumes they were infected by an asymptomatic worker. They are being quarantined to prevent the spread are being watched carefully to make sure they aren’t getting sicker.

This news reminds us that close contact with an infected person can transmit the virus. Mask wearing helps prevent transmission. From the story it is unclear if the worker wore a mask around the gorillas.

We know masks prevent transmission, if the infected person wears one. We have more evidence daily. Sadly, when people don’t wear masks, infections happen as evidenced by several members of congress being infected while sheltering during the insurrection in the Capitol on January 6. They had been immunized only a few days before so had not had time to develop immunity - it takes 12-14 days to develop antibodies and maximum immunity occurs after the second shot. I am hoping that the vaccine may help decrease the severity of their illnesses despite being close to time of immunization. No comment from me on why their fellow representatives refused to wear masks, despite the closed space and being offered fresh masks to wear.

More data is coming that shows that a well fitted mask is more protective than a loose fitting mask, due to the gaps in surgical masks and some other masks. One mask can be helpful in filtering air, two masks may have more protection due to more filtration. Doubling masks may be more protective in some situations, especially if the masks are thin. However, if too tight a weave, doubling masks could make it harder to breathe. I have many patients who place the surgical mask they are given by our screeners over their own mask for their visit. It makes sense to me to do that when in a risky setting.

And finally, my caveat is that this is my experience and my opinions, which are subject to change as more information is available, and not related to the organization I work for. Thanks for reading.

Wash your hands, cover your nose, keep safe six, double down on masking

https://www.pnas.org/content/118/4/e2014564118#ref-10

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/more/masking-science-sars-cov2.html

https://zoonooz.sandiegozoo.org/2021/01/11/gorilla-troop-at-the-san-diego-zoo-safari-park-test-positive-for-covid-19/

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/12/health/coronavirus-masks-transmission.html