Released by The University of Hong Kong’s department of microbiology, the study was published in the Clinical Infectious Diseases medical journal.
Hamsters were chosen as the test animals because they have very similar enzyme receptors to humans, one of the study’s researchers and leading microbiologists Dr. Yuen Kwok-yung said in the study.
Hamsters were put into two separate cages, with one group of hamsters infected with the virus and the other healthy.
Then, three different “scenarios” were created by researchers – mask barriers placed over the cages housing infected hamsters, masks covering healthy hamsters, and a cage with no mask barrier at all.
There was a fan between the cages allowing particles to be transmitted between the hamsters, according to the study.
With no mask barriers at all, 2/3 of the healthy hamsters — 66.7% — were infected with the virus within a week, according to researchers.
But when the mask barrier was placed over the cage with infected hamsters, the infection rate dropped to 16.7%.
When the mask barrier was used to cover the healthy hamsters’ cage, the infection rate went up to 33%, the study indicated.
The hamsters who were still infected despite having the mask barrier also had less of the virus in their bodies compared to those infected without the masks, according to researchers.
The study comes after a fierce debate between the World Health Organization and local governing bodies on the effectiveness of face masks outside medical settings.
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