您的浏览器不支持JavaScript,请开启后继续

China Heating,Ventilation and Air Conditioning
联系热线:010-64693287 / 010-64693285

Solution for Secondary Transmission of Discarded Masks in Schools

  • Author:
  • Chao Li
  • Publish:
  • 2021-02-10

Newton South High School    Chao Li  

 Abstract 

Background

       After verification, the COVID-19 virus can survive for seven days on the surface of discarded masks. So far, the number of COVID-19 positive patients remains high. Meanwhile, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website, variants of the SARS-Cov-2 virus from the United Kingdom, South Africa, and Brazil have begun to enter the United States. These variants show higher contagion and infection, which threaten the public health and may contribute to more cases, of COVID-19 (New COVID-19 Variants, 2021). As new wave of students began to return to school in the spring semester, adolescents and children without vaccine protection against COVID-19 are extremely vulnerable when they are exposed to the infected people or public items. In this case, though, the students followed CDC guidelines to wear masks. However, if discarded masks become the source of secondary transmission, cross-infection caused by improper disposal of discarded masks could become a risk of transmission to family members.

       To this end, with the help of many teachers, I surveyed the disposal of discarded masks among high school students to understand the awareness of high school students about self-protection and the possibility of secondary transmission caused by discarded masks. At the end of report, I will give preventive suggestions according to the survey results.

Methods

       This survey adopts the method of online questionnaire survey. The target population is high school students.

Results

       According to the survey, high school students ignore discarded masks' disposal and are not aware of the risk of cross-infection caused by improper handling of masks during repeated use.

Conclusions 

       There is a high risk of cross-transmission infections if they are not handled properly in the case of discarded masks. Individuals should take necessary and sufficient measures to deal with it. Schools need to publicize this situation to students to raise their awareness of the scientific disposal of discarded masks and prevent secondary transmission caused by discarded masks.

       Since the questionnaire's main target population is in one high school and the sample size of adults and children under 12 years old is too small, this survey will be continued and extended to other high schools and universities. Moreover, based on the updated analysis, give the most valuable suggestions.

 Adolescents neglect the risks of dealing with masks 

Adolescents cannot be vaccinated against COVID-19

       According to the CDC, while fewer children and adolescents are infected than adults, some children can still get seriously ill from COVID-19. Not only can sick children transmit the virus, but "asymptomatic" children can also transmit COVID-19's virus (COVID-19 in Children and Teens, 2020). Also, one of the two vaccines currently approved for use is available for use in persons 16 years of age and older (Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine, 2020). The other is for people over the age of 18 (Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine, 2020). This suggests that this group of adolescents and children cannot achieve the goal of preventing COVID-19 through vaccination.

Virus survival rate and survival time

       The COVID-19 virus can survive on the mask's surface for more than seven days and remain active. According to the research report in the relevant information, after strict experimental data statistics, it is found that the survival rate and survival time of the virus under daily room temperature conditions have further improved. Statistics show that test masks and ordinary masks and plastic, stainless steel, glass, and ceramics are inevitable in daily life. For a long period, it was found that the COVID-19 virus can exist on the surface of these objects for more than seven days. In another report, on the 7th day of the experiment, after testing the experimental mask's surface, it was found that the COVID-19 virus could still survive on the surface of the mask and maintain its infectivity and activity. In this situation and background, not taking discarded masks seriously will significantly increase the risk of infection caused by hand contact. (Stability of SARS-CoV-2 in different environmental conditions, 2020) (Stability of SARS-CoV-2 on environmental surfaces and in human excreta, 2020)

       The wrong disposal method may induce more serious consequences due to the sticky property of COVID-19 virus. (Aerosol and surface contamination of SARS-CoV-2 observed in quarantine and isolation care) show that no matter the severity or acuity of symptoms, it exists in the room where patients infected and infected with SARS-CoV-2 are located Serious environmental pollution. Contamination exists in all types of samples: high-volume and low-volume air samples and surface samples, including personal belongings, room surfaces, and toilets. After testing, it was found that toilet samples of patients who were positive for viral RNA were consistent with other viral shedding reports in feces. At the same time, contamination was found on personal items, especially items that are usually handled by individuals alone, such as mobile phones and remote controls, and medical equipment that maintains constant contact with patients. The observation of virus replication in individual samples in cell culture confirmed the recovered virus’s potential infectivity. Although the test carried out in this document is located in the room of a confirmed COVID-19 patient, it can still prove that the COVID-19 virus can attach to almost all items that are frequently touched daily and it still has potential infectious nature for a while (active) (Aerosol and surface contamination of SARS-CoV-2 observed in quarantine and isolation care, 2020) 

 Report data feedback 

Ethical considerations

       In order to protect personal privacy, all questionnaire data statistics do not contain similar information such as the person’s name, race and related address. 

Questionnaire overview

       Join the age chart until 2/1/2021, with a total of 107 questionnaires. Among them, 89% are 12-18-year-olds, 15% are adults over 18 years old, and only 2% are under 12 years old. As the sample size of teenagers and children under 12 is too small, this report will not focus on it.


Age of reporters

       The questionnaire focuses on the classification and reuse of masks for an in-depth investigation.

Adolescent (12-18)


Percentage of time using in Medical- surgical mask

       In the statistics of adolescents, 61% of people choose to use disposable surgical masks. Disposable surgical masks can effectively prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus in daily life but are not as expensive as N95 masks. Disposable surgical masks in daily life are sufficient for most of the preventive effects. However, after further data analysis, it was found that among 61% of disposable surgical masks, only 9%of them were replaced within 5 hours.

       According to the CDC official website (Operational Considerations for Personal Protective Equipment in the Context of Global Supply Shortages for Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Pandemic: non-US Healthcare Settings), it is clearly stated that repeated use of surgical masks does not comply with the standard use process. The number of times that medical masks may be reprocessed is unknown. If the mask is removed for any other reason (such as a break or completion of a shift), it should be handled following the appropriate regulations. The length of long-term use will depend on local and individual factors, such as humidity and the length of shifts. This may only last up to six hours. (Operational Considerations for Personal Protective Equipment in the Context of Global Supply Shortages for Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Pandemic: non-US Healthcare Settings, 2020)

       Regarding the thought of discarded masks, data shows that 46% of people believe that it is necessary to take corresponding safety measures before replacing discarded masks, while the remaining people do not think it is necessary to take corresponding safety measures before replacing them.


Percentage of opinion about throw masks

       However, according to further investigations, among 46% of those who choose "masks need special treatment," only 7% will change their masks within 5 hours. So that’s means even among 46% of people who think that special treatment is needed, only 7% of people's behavior can prevent infection. The rest of them have no preventive effect but increase the possibility of infection.



Percentage of reusing opinion

       Although the CDC does not recommend the reuse of face masks, there is a large body of data showing that people reuse masks, so this study analyzed face masks' reuse. We found that only 45% (36%+9%) of people chose appropriate cleaning and protection measures before reuse in the reuse statistics. If the mask must be reused, it is recommended to disinfect the mask to reduce secondary infection risk.

Adult (>18)

       For adults, numbers of people using Disposable medical surgical masks can reach 50%, but only 6% will change the mask within 5 hours. Such data prove that the masks used by only 6% of people play a role in preventing the virus.

       Among them, more than 63% believe that no protection is needed when throwing discarded masks in the trash can.

Results

       According to the data feedback and results, most teenagers do not understand and pay little attention to the disposal of discarded masks, which may cause the secondary transmission of COVID-19. Since the outbreak began in March, masks have become a permanent item for every household. It can be found from the literature that the COVID-19 virus itself has a long time cycle, and it can also be attached to masks, remaining active and infectious for a long time. In this case, if masks are used repeatedly, and there is a lack of practical and scientific disposal of discarded masks, there is a distinct possibility of secondary transmission of COVID-19 caused by discarded masks.

       Most schools start offline teaching in the spring semester, and many teachers and students have close contact in a relatively closed environment. Teenagers can still become carriers of the virus, even though current data show that the incidence is low among teenagers. Without appropriate information on how to properly dispose of discarded masks, there is a high risk of infection among teachers and infection among family members caused by students taking the virus home. "And potentially spread the infection.

       Discarded masks pose a significant risk of cross-infection and secondary infection for communities if they are not disposed of scientifically. This risk includes all adults and underage students, as well as people of all ages. Studies have shown that underlying diseases are common in the elderly. If discarded masks are not effectively disposed of or reused for disinfection, secondary infections are significantly increased in the elderly or those with underlying diseases. Therefore, how to avoid cross-infection caused by masks is particularly important.

 Solution 

Suggestions for School

       1.Increase the recycling bins for masks and related medical waste during the treatment and classification of garbage cans so as to reduce the possibility of secondary pollution caused by unreasonable recycling control of masks. Simultaneously, medical waste recycling bins are often disinfected to reduce the secondary spread of viruses through the bins.

       2.The school should strengthen the publicity of secondary pollution hazards and self-protection and publicize discarded masks' disposal methods through the school website and teaching areas. Schools are advised to provide plenty of hand sanitizer (70% alcohol), portable, disposable disinfectant wipes, and to disinfect public goods as necessary before using public appliances. Remind students to disinfect their hands at any time to reduce the possibility of cross-infection caused by viruses attached to the skin.

       3.Conduct quantitative disinfection on the desks and chairs regularly to reduce the possibility of secondary contamination caused by viruses attached to the desks and chairs.

       4.Strictly manage masks' wearing masks to control and reduce the chance of infection caused by not wearing masks in time.

       5.Students are advised to change new disposable masks after school to reduce the possibility of carrying the virus home. Disinfect belongings (such as cell phones, items outside your backpack) before returning home from school. Disinfect with paper towels to prevent the virus from sticking to relevant items and taking them home, increasing the spread and risk of infection. Used disinfection tissues must be disposed of in particular recycling bins such as masks to reduce the possibility of secondary transmission caused by careless disposal.

Suggestions to the community

       1.Increase the recycling bins for masks and related medical waste during the treatment and classification of garbage cans, centralize the disposal of discarded masks, and reduce the possibility of secondary pollution caused by unreasonable recycling control of masks. Simultaneously, medical waste recycling bins are often disinfected to reduce the secondary spread of viruses through the bins.

       2.It is recommended that each family dispose of the discarded masks separately to facilitate centralized management and destruction and reduce the possibility of cross-infection.

       3.Community awareness of the possible secondary transmission of discarded masks should be strengthened. Suggest guidelines for disposal of discarded masks.


Summary of public suggestions on setting up mask waste storage places

Suggestions for personal

       1.Wear the mask reasonably and change the mask within 6 hours.

       2.Place plastic bags, collect all discarded masks, and centrally disinfect the plastic bag area.

       3.Wash hands.

       4.Disinfect frequently used items (cell phones, computers, backpacks, jackets) with alcohol regularly.

       5.Masks are expected to age quickly, so try not to reuse them. If you reuse them, check them carefully before use. If the mask becomes wet, damaged, visibly dirty, or has difficulty breathing, remove it and dispose of it appropriately.

Results

       According to the survey, high school students ignore discarded masks' disposal and are not aware of the risk of cross-infection caused by improper handling of masks during repeated use.

Conclusions

       There is a high risk of cross-transmission infections if they are not handled properly in the case of discarded masks. Individuals should take necessary and sufficient measures to deal with it. Schools need to publicize this situation to students to raise their awareness of the scientific disposal of discarded masks and prevent secondary transmission caused by discarded masks.

       Since the questionnaire's main target population is in one high school and the sample size of adults and children under 12 years old is too small, this survey will be continued and extended to other high schools and universities. Moreover, based on the updated analysis, give the most valuable suggestions.

 Reference 

       1.(New COVID-19 Variants, 2021)

       2.(COVID-19 in Children and Teens, 2020)

       3.(Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine, 2020)

       4.(Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine, 2020)

       5.(Stability of SARS-CoV-2 in different environmental conditions, 2020)

       6.(Stability of SARS-CoV-2 on environmental surfaces and in human excreta, 2020)

       7.(Aerosol and surface contamination of SARS-CoV-2 observed in quarantine and isolation care, 2020)

       8.(Operational Considerations for Personal Protective Equipment in the Context of Global Supply Shortages for Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Pandemic: non-US Healthcare Settings, 2020)

       9.(Contamination of inert surfaces by SARS-CoV-2: Persistence, stability and infectivity. A review, 2020)

 Acknowledgments 

       The author would like to thank those who helped the report during the research process: Patrick McFarland, Christopher Hardiman, Victoria Parker, Sarah Style, Ryan Normandin, Benjamin Youngman, Natasha Galichina, Lisa Soo Hoo. 

using HeatingPortal.Helper
Contact
Address:China Academy of Building Research 30#, Bei San Huan Dong Lu Tel:010- 64517051/64517224 Fax: 010-64693286 Email:chvac2008@sina.com