Researchers continue to learn more about the novel coronavirus as days pass by. When the pandemic started, little was known about SARS-CoV-2. Now we have more knowledge about the virus and how it is spread. For those who have pets at home, there are some things you should know about COVID-19 and masking around your pet.
Can pets get COVID-19?
It appears that in certain situations the virus can spread from people to animals. Most animals that have been reported to be infected with SARS-CoV-2 got the virus from close contacts with individuals who have COVID-19. However, the risk of animals spreading COVID-19 to humans is considered low.
Do you need to wear a mask around your pet?
You do not need to wear a surgical mask or N95 mask when around your pet. However, if you are sick and need to care for your pet or be around them, you should wear a face mask. It is also important that you wash your hands before and after interacting with your pets. When possible, let another family member look after your pet while you are recovering.
Furthermore, avoid petting, snuggling, or sleeping in the same bed with your pet when you are not feeling well. You should also avoid being licked or kissed.
How to protect your pet from SARS-CoV-2
Because people with COVID-19 may spread the virus to their pets, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends pet owners to limit the interaction of their pets with people who do not belong to their household well as people with suspected COVID-19.
Here are some tips to protect your pet from the virus:
- Do not let your cat roam outside. Keep them indoors as much as possible.
- Walk dogs on a leash where they are at least 2 meters from other people and pets.
- Do not go to public places where a lot of people gather.
- Do not put a surgical mask or N95 mask on your pet. Covering your pet’s face with a surgical mask, N95 mask, or even a cloth mask could be harmful to them.
- Do not use chemical disinfectants, hydrogen peroxide, alcohol, hand sanitizer, and other industrial cleaners on your pet.
In order to protect your pets from SARS-CoV-2, you have to protect yourself too. If you go outside the house often, you might bring the virus back with you. To minimize the risk of contracting COVID-19, you should use a face mask, practice social distancing, and wash your hands frequently. But what type of face mask should you use? Does a cloth mask, surgical mask, or N95 mask really protect your and your pets from the virus?
Face masks and COVID-19
SARS-CoV-2 is spread through respiratory droplets that an infected person generates when sneezing, talking, coughing, and laughing. These droplets travel in the air and land in a person’s mouth or nose. These droplets may also be inhaled.
A cloth mask, surgical mask, or N95 mask is a barrier that prevents your respiratory droplets from reaching those near you in case you have the virus. Studies show that the spray of respiratory droplets is greatly reduced when you wear a face mask over your mouth and nose.
A surgical mask is a disposable face mask that covers the wearer’s mouth and nose. A surgical mask serves as a barrier that traps the user’s respiratory secretions and saliva. When worn properly, a surgical mask also blocks large droplets, sprays, and splashes of liquid or body fluid that may carry bacteria and viruses, preventing them from reaching the user’s mouth and nose.
Although a surgical mask may effectively block large droplets and splashes, a surgical mask does not block tiny airborne particles. Similarly, a surgical mask does not offer complete protection due to its loose fit.
Surgical masks should be reserved for healthcare staff that needs them the most. Nonetheless, if you have a surgical mask at home, be sure to use it properly and discard it after. If you have an adequate supply of surgical masks, the best thing to do is to discard a used surgical mask even if you have only worn it once.
An N95 mask is a respiratory protective device that efficiently filters out at least 95 percent of tiny airborne particles when worn properly. An N95 mask should have a good facial fit for it to work. The edges of an N95 mask are designed to create a seal around the wearer’s nose and mouth, preventing viruses and bacteria from bypassing the mask every time the user inhales.
An N95 mask should not be reused or shared. Ideally, an N95 mask is disposed of after one use. However, in certain healthcare facilities, there is decontamination equipment available and N95 masks are reused by healthcare staff.
N95 masks, like surgical masks, should be reserved for medical responders and healthcare workers who are exposed to suspected and confirmed COVID-19 patients. However, if you have N95 masks at home and prefer it over the cloth and surgical masks, be sure to handle your N95 mask properly and do a user seal check before using it.
Cloth masks are ideal for people who do not work in healthcare facilities or do not encounter patients with suspected or confirmed COVID-19. When choosing a cloth mask, pick one that fits properly without any large gaps along the sides of the face. Your cloth mask should be made of cotton or other breathable fabric. Moreover, the mask should be made with tightly woven fabric and have two or three layers. Cloth masks that have inner filter pockets are also recommended.
The CDC advises members of the public to use cloth masks instead of surgical masks and N95 masks in order to prevent supply shortages. There was a shortage of surgical masks and N95 masks when the pandemic started and this can be prevented from happening again by reserving surgical and N95 masks for healthcare staff.
Then again, if you have a surgical mask or N95 mask at home and you wear them regularly, make sure that you wear it properly. Surgical masks and N95 masks, no matter how efficient, are worthless if you do not use them correctly.