Without a doubt, face masks of all kinds, along with other medical supplies like face shields, gloves, and gowns, have been at the center of attention during this year. Many of these supplies have become scarce during this health crisis, and the days in which they were easily found online for sale, with options to buy them in bulk and wholesale, are in the past.
Today, we would like to analyze how much the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the surgical mask market.
COVID-19 and the surgical mask market
It’s safe to say that the COVID-19 pandemic has had a powerful impact on almost all aspects of our daily lives. But, without a doubt, face masks have been one of the most talked-about products this year. They’ve been one of the highlights of 2020, and even though they previously were only seen being worn by healthcare workers, now they’re part of our daily routine.
COVID-19 is a respiratory illness that is spread when the virus responsible for it, the SARS-CoV-2, is released into the air by an infected person. The virus is carried by fluids in the form of droplets, and when they reach the nose or mouth and are inhaled, they begin replicating and colonizing the airways. For this reason, and because many people can get severely ill with this disease, the main resource for virus control have been face masks, including surgical masks.
Technavio, a market research company, has analyzed the impact COVID-19 has had on the surgical mask market. Some of the key points from this analysis and report include the following:
- The value of the surgical mask market was $4.86 billion last year, and it’s projected to reach 7.27 billion in 2024.
- The market is currently growing at a CAGR (Compound Annual Growth Rate) of 8%, and it’s projected to accelerate during the 2020-2024 forecast.
- The key factor driving this market are the frequent epidemic outbreaks.
- Right now, the top players in this market include 3M, with their 3M N95 masks including the models 3M 8210 and 3M 8511, Honeywell International Inc., Medline Industries Inc., Cardinal Health Inc., among others.
- The region that is expected to hold the highest market share in Europe.
What are surgical masks?
Surgical masks are also known as medical or dental masks and are disposable face masks intended to be used in healthcare settings. Many people also call them ‘regular’ face masks, but this doesn’t mean any type of face mask can substitute them. They’re regulated and manufactured specifically for their uses in healthcare settings. People usually only saw these masks being worn by healthcare providers like doctors or nurses, but with the COVID-19 outbreak, now many people are using them for virus protection.
They protect the person by forming a physical barrier between the nose and mouth of the wearer and the environment, in which fluids in the form of droplets, sprays, splashes, or splatter can be released during medical, surgical, or dental procedures. These fluids can carry harmful pathogens, and when they reach the mucous membranes they can lead to serious diseases that vary as much as the microorganisms that cause them.
Surgical masks also work filtering out particles but unlike N95 masks (also known as N95 respirators) which can filter out very small particles, these can only filter out large particles. This means surgical masks can’t filter out particles like viruses, including the flu or the coronavirus, as well as smoke or dust. Surgical masks also have a much looser fit than N95 masks, allowing space for air to leak out unfiltered, and the pathogens released by the wearer can reach the environment.
The protection offered by both the filtration and the physical barrier of the mask can also work the other way around, preventing the wearer from releasing pathogens into the environment. This is important in many healthcare settings, like surgeries or medical procedures where the wound can get contaminated, or when a doctor or nurse is treating an immunocompromised patient, who can easily develop serious infections.
However, because of the loose fit of the respirator and the limited filtration efficacy, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) has not recommended surgical masks for antiviral purposes during the COVID-19 pandemic. They can, however, substitute N95 masks or KN95 masks (they’re equivalent under the Chinese filtration standard) if these are not available in the facility due to shortages of medical PPE (personal protective equipment).
Surgical masks are disposable face masks, which means they must be used only once and then be discarded appropriately. They can’t be shared with other people, and they must always be handled by the ear-loops or the straps, avoiding touching the inside or the outside of the mask to prevent contamination. Washing the hands before and after handling a mask is always recommended as well. After being used, or if it becomes wet or damaged, the mask must be removed by the ear-loops or straps and discarded in the corresponding area, washing the hands before and after doing so.
We finish this informative article reminding our readers that staying protected is the priority right now. The USA is expected to experience a new surge in COVID-19 cases, and the CDC recommends that everyone, including kids over the age of 2, wears a reusable cloth mask, leaving medical-grade protection like the surgical masks or the N95 respirators for the workers on the frontlines. Right now, anyone who follows this recommendation, along with social distancing and hygiene rules, is doing their part to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.