This Body Part Is the "Purveyor of All Viral Ill"
If you're not covering this part of your body, you're putting yourself at risk, study says.
Throughout the COVID pandemic, face masks have been touted as one of the best ways to prevent the virus from spreading. And while there has been a great deal of guidance on the proper way to wear the protective coverings—over both your nose and mouth—some people continue to misuse masks. Improperly wearing this piece of PPE could be just as risky as wearing no covering at all, especially if it is oriented in a way that exposes your nose, researchers warn.
A recent study out of the University of North Carolina, published in Cell, sought to find where COVID-19 most frequently infiltrates the body. And the results showed that the virus most often entered through cells in the nose. The researchers hypothesize that this phenomenon is due in part because the virus infects the cells of the cilia—the tiny hairs that line the inside of the nose. According to the study, the virus can also enter the body through the mouth but it "infects and replicates progressively less well in cells lower down the respiratory tract, including the lungs."
If COVID most frequently infects people through the nose, the trend of wearing a mask half on is extremely risky. "The nose is basically the purveyor of all viral ill," co-author of the study Richard Boucher, MD, told ABC. So if your nose is outside of your mask, you're leaving the most vulnerable pathway to contracting illness unprotected.
The researchers believe their findings could lead to a deeper understanding of steps we can take to prevent COVID from transmitting. "If the nose is the dominant initial site from which lung infections are seeded, then the widespread use of masks to protect the nasal passages, as well as any therapeutic strategies that reduce virus in the nose, such as nasal irrigation or antiviral nasal sprays, could be beneficial," Boucher said in a statement. Due to these discoveries, the study argues for the "widespread mask use" to prevent exposure of the virus to the nasal passages.
And to see when it is safe to have your face uncovered, check out You Can Safely Keep Your Mask Off If You're Doing This, Says Dr. Fauci.