People infected with COVID-19 can spread the virus when they cough, sneeze or just breathe. Researchers, doctors, and scientists believe that masks slow down the spread. Recently, scientists think wearing a face mask will boost COVID-19 immunity. Is that why many countries, states, and cities are making it mandatory?
People have now started wearing cloth masks and face coverings that don’t completely prevent infection. However, medical-grade surgical masks appear to offer more protection. However, N95 or P2 respirator masks worn by many healthcare workers offer additional protection. How you wear your mask, how does it cover your nose and mouth, and how often you touch the mask makes it effective or ineffective.
While the usual cloth covering and masks may not completely prevent infections, it might reduce the number of virus particles you inhale(viral dose). Scientists think that a lower viral dose can reduce the severity of the infection.
Could Wearing Face Masks Boost COVID-19 Immunity?
Researchers from the University of California have raised the possibility but the theory hasn’t been proved yet. The viral dose is a key determinant of how sick we get. Let’s assume you touch a door handle that has a virus particle. You then touch your nose and breath that particle in. You will automatically be infected with that one virus particle. One COVID-19 virus particle can easily develop into 30 new virus particles in 24 hours. Those new virus particles then affect 30 more cells rising up to 900 new virus particles in a span of 24 hours.
Now imagine someone sneezes on your face and you inhale 1000 virus particles. You could have 30000 virus particles during the first round of replication and you will end up having 900,000 within 24 hours. In this case, your body could be dealing with 1,000 times more virus than the first scenario.
Once your immunity system detects the virus, it fights back to bring them under control by
- Informing the cells to stop the viral replication
- Producing antibodies to neutralize the virus
- Making T cells to kill virus-infected cells
The first step is quick but producing antibodies and making T-cells take weeks. Meanwhile, the virus will start replicating over and over again.
If your body has more viruses, the immune response should be more. The immune response causes symptoms like cold, fever. In an asymptomatic infection, the immune system probably manages to get the virus under control a litter early so the immune response will be smaller and you won’t see any symptoms. The severity of COVID-19 cases could be a result of the immune system overreacting.
After the infection is clear, some immune cells are kept to fight against further infection. Those cells are known as B cells which produce antibodies and T-cells specific to COVID-19. It is also possible to trick the immune system by making vaccination to stop COVID-19 cells from infecting the body.
Wearing face masks might only allow a small number of virus particles. This means you will be more likely to get asymptomatic infections. This might be enough to protect you from future infections with COVID-19. If you are in a situation where there is high community transmission, you can always wear a mask and maintain physical distance to help you in the long run.
Do Face Masks Boost COVID-19 Immunity?
This is an interesting argument. We still don’t understand if the asymptomatic infection would generate the required immunity to fight against future infection. The viral dose is just one factor that may be under control by wearing masks. Other factors like an underlying medical condition, age, sex, can cause long term effects.
Wearing masks is one of the responsible things you can do to feel safe and fine.
Do you agree?