Doing This One Thing at Home Could Curb 80 Percent of Coronavirus Cases
A new study shows that doing this one thing—yes, even at home—could keep your family and friends safe.
By now, we're all used to the proper precautions we need to take to ward off the coronavirus. The second you step outside, you should be armed with a face mask and hand sanitizer in order to keep yourself and others safe. And when you're in your house, you should disinfect common touch points as well as practice good hand-washing hygiene. But while you may have found relief in removing your face mask the second you walk in the door, a new study says that could be a critical error. The research, which was published in BMJ Global Health, found that wearing a mask at home was 79 percent effective at curbing coronavirus transmission among family members.
The only catch? You have to be wearing the masks before symptoms emerge in the first person infected in your household. "Face mask use by the primary case and family contacts before the primary case developed symptoms was 79 percent effective in reducing transmission," the researchers note.
Yes, according to the study, which examined 460 people from 126 Chinese families in Beijing, it's pivotal to wear a mask even if nobody in your household is showing symptoms. If you wait until someone is sick, then chances are you've already been exposed, and wearing a mask won't help at that point.
"This study confirms the highest risk of household transmission being prior to symptom onset, but that precautionary [measures], such as mask use, disinfection, and social distancing in households can prevent COVID-19 transmission during the pandemic," the researchers explain.
The study also found that families who had close daily contact—including eating meals and watching TV together—were 18 times more likely to transmit the virus. This is a huge revelation as "household transmission is a major driver of epidemic growth," the researchers note.
An earlier study, which has not yet been peer reviewed, looked at 318 outbreaks in China in which three or more cases were identified. They found that 254 of the coronavirus outbreaks stemmed from homes—which is nearly 80 percent.
So, though wearing a mask at home is crucial for those who are living with a healthcare worker or someone in quarantine, it's still a guideline worth following in general. This is particularly true as states start to reopen and people return to the outside world.
"This is an important paper," Prof. Sally Bloomfield of London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine said in a statement. "It comes at a time when—as lockdown is eased—the risk of a person entering the home who has become infected (e.g. whilst on public transport or in the workplace) but is unaware that this is so, is increasing." And for more places in your house where you should be careful, check out the 7 Things in Your Home You Should Never Touch Without Gloves.