Face masks could help limit the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to researchers who studied the effect of surgical masks on the transmission of other corona and flu viruses.
In the study, the use of surgical masks by sufferers significantly reduced the number of flu viruses detectable in droplets released through breathing and coughing.
It also reduced the number of seasonal coronaviruses - among the causes of common colds - detectable in the air as suspended microdroplets, or aerosols. The study did not look at the new coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2.
"Further research is needed to determine whether masks can specifically prevent the transmission of SARS-CoV-2," the scientists said.
The research, published in the journal Nature Medicine, coincides with the pandemic of COVID-19 respiratory disease, which has infected more than a million people worldwide and killed more than 53,000.