What other viruses do surgical masks protect against?

The Coronavirus is one of the deadliest viruses that healthcare workers are trying to contain. It was on December 1, 2019, when the first case for coronavirus originated in China. The virus took over the world in just a span of months. As the world is under emergency, healthcare experts have advised the public to do necessary measures to prevent themselves from contracting the virus. One way they see fit is by wearing a protective mask.

Protective masks like the surgical masks have proven themselves effective in decelerating viral transmission. Surgical masks protect the main points of entry which are the nose and the mouth. Following the recommendation from the healthcare experts, respective governments across the world imposed mask mandates. These mandates require their citizens to wear masks in public.

Even before having a solid mask mandate, surgical masks have been protecting people from viruses. Protective masks like the surgical mask rose to international demands due to the potency of the virus. Aside from the deadly coronavirus, surgical masks can protect people from other strains of viruses.


The rhinovirus is one of the most common viruses that infiltrate the human body. Rhinovirus is the leading cause for people to have common colds. Rhinovirus can also cause a sore throat and other infections involving the sinuses. The rhinovirus is a contagious virus that can be passed through a sneeze, cough, and hand contact like handshakes. This virus is common among people, especially children.


The influenza virus is one of the leading causes of flu. Although influenza and the rhinovirus could be similar in some ways, the two viral strains have entirely different conditions. The rhinovirus causes sneezing, common colds, and slight body aches. Influenza viruses have more severe symptoms that include sinusitis, sepsis, pneumonia, and ear infections. Influenza also has more intense body pains than rhinovirus.


SARS or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome is a viral strain that became a global threat in the year 2003. SARS is a form of infectious pneumonia with similar symptoms to the flu. This virus can also cause breathing difficulty in the first 10 days the virus infiltrates the body. Other symptoms of SARS include malaise, rash, diarrhea, and fever.


This particular virus strain is a subtype of the influenza A virus that went viral in the year 2009. The H1N1 virus is also called the swine flu and was quick enough for the World Health Organization to call it a pandemic. The way of contact for this virus is similar to the influenza virus and has the same pattern of symptoms. It was called swine flu because of the direct contact of humans to pigs.


In the year 2012, the MERS-CoV was identified in Saudi Arabia. MERS or the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome is a respiratory disease that originated from novel coronavirus. It is a zoonotic virus. Meaning, the mode of transmission is between humans and animals like dromedary camels. It has similar symptoms as SARS since both are from the same coronavirus strain.


Rubella or commonly known as German measles is a common viral infection among children. It causes an itchy red rash all over the body with fever and swollen nodules. The mode of transmission for rubella is through a sneeze or a cough or touching any part of the body with bodily fluids from the infected person. A vaccine has been developed for this virus.

How do surgical masks prevent viruses from infiltrating the body?

The surgical mask is a 3-ply mask, which means the mask has three layers of protection. Since the mentioned viral strains can be transmitted through sneeze or cough, the first layer of the surgical mask can block droplets from the cough or sneeze. The surgical mask is a water-proof mask that is efficient in blocking liquids. The filtration is mostly done in the second layer of the surgical mask. The second layer is made from a melt-blown fabric and is excellent in blocking viruses. The third layer of the surgical mask is for the wearer.

This is why patients with colds or influenza are advised to wear protective masks like the surgical mask. The third layer of the surgical mask prevents the wearer from contaminating the surrounding people. Both the first and the third layer of the surgical mask are made from non-woven fabric and are excellent in repelling liquid particles.

What other masks can prevent viruses from infiltrating the body?

Aside from the surgical masks, protective masks like the N95 mask can prevent the virus from infiltrating the body. This is because the N95 mask can filter particles including viruses up to 95%. Viruses are trapped on the surface of these masks through electrostatic charge. Also, the N95 mask is capable of creating a tight seal, preventing any leakage. Wearing the N95 mask lowers the chance of getting infected with the virus.

Could masks like surgical masks be a substitute for social distancing?

No. Masks like surgical masks are not a substitute for social distancing. Observing social/physical distancing can help people in decreasing their chance of getting the virus. Masks like the surgical mask can help the wearer in blocking the virus from coming.

While the coronavirus is still at large, people must be vigilant in going into crowded places. Wearing masks can help the majority of people. Without an effective cure or vaccine, the wearing of masks like the surgical mask can go on for quite some time. With an unseen enemy, wearing masks is like wearing armor.

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