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Danish mask study has serious shortcomings, experts say



Mask-wearing has remained a hot-button political issue, although several states, including those with Republican governors who have long opposed such measures, are adopting mask mandates as the number of cases increases across the United States. Numerous studies have shown that masks and perhaps even mandates reduce the risk of transmission.

“Masks have been shown to protect others and, despite the reported results of this study, are likely to protect the wearer,” Tom Frieden, former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, wrote in an editorial explaining what he sees as the various limitations. in study.

In the large, randomized study published on Wednesday in the Annals of Internal Medicine, researchers observed more than 6,000 people in Denmark from April to June, when it was not necessary to wear a mask in the country. Fewer people in the group recommended to wear masks had the virus ̵

1; or about 14 percent reduced risk due to mask use – but the difference was not statistically significant, indicating that the medical masks issued were not very effective in preventing the carriers. from becoming infected. However, other experts claim that the study was conducted when there was relatively less spread in the community of the virus and that testing of the participants’ antibodies could not reliably measure whether they had the virus during the study period.

“We believe that you should at least wear a face mask to protect yourself, but you should also use it to protect others,” lead author Henning Bundgaard told The Washington Post. “We think the conclusion is that we should wear face masks.”

Bundgaard said that even the small risk reduction that masks offer “is very important, given that it is a life-threatening disease.”

This is how conservative circles interpreted the study. Online, commentators and elected officials who argued against mandate masks interpreted the results as supporting their beliefs. Even before the paper was published, the search term “Danish mask study” spread on Google, as an unfounded theory had spread that other credible scientific journals had refused to publish the research because liberal researchers kept the study under wraps. The Lancet, New England Journal of Medicine and JAMA told The Post that it was a policy not to comment on papers that the journals did not publish.

The simple act of wearing a blanket over the mouth and nose has become extremely divisive, as some question the changing recommendations of top health organizations.

The CDC revised its guide last week to say the wearer can benefit from a face mask that filters drops that carry the virus. The health agency, which has called on Americans to mask themselves to protect others since the summer, cited several studies that assessed mechanical evidence that concluded that masks can block certain airway particles, depending on the material of the masks.

The agency referred to a study conducted by Japanese researchers who found “cotton masks, surgical masks and N95 masks had a protective effect.” Other research has suggested that masks may filter out some of the virus-carrying particles, reducing the viral dose and how sick the wearer may become. In a report released Friday, the CDC concluded that the average number of daily cases fell in 24 Kansas counties that imposed mask mandates over the summer, while 81 counties that did not require masks were recorded.

Another study cited by the CDC in its update on the benefit to carriers, led by Eugenia O’Kelly, a doctoral candidate at the University of Cambridge’s engineering department, found increasingly common face masks in fabric blocked a number of ultrafine particles.

“I think the overwhelming amount of evidence suggests that masks are effective,” O’Kelly said in an interview. “The question comes down to how effective.”

O’Kelly said how people choose to wear their masks can play a big role in their value. The Danish study does not show how well people wore the 50 masks of medical quality they were issued, but indicates that the participants on average used more than one daily.

Proper training on how to wear masks and how effective they can be has been hampered by the division over policies that require them.

“Because the issue has become so politicized, there is a real risk – and it is already being used in this way – that studies like this will be kind of cherry-picked and presented as conclusive evidence that masks are completely ineffective,” Columbia University virologist Angela Sagde Rasmussen .

With an intense media fixation of all new research coming out on the virus that has dominated the globe, Rasmussen and other experts are concerned that studies conducted before peer-reviewed or even peer-reviewed are critical and taken out of context .

“Science is a method,” Rasmussen said. “Just because it appears in a peer-reviewed journal does not mean it is settled. All studies have their limitations, and the peer review process itself has its limitations. ”

In letters and blog posts, public health experts express concern about the design of the study and warn that politicians misinterpret the research so that masks are ineffective.

“The more accurate translation, however, is that this study is uninformative as to the benefits (or lack thereof) of wearing masks outside of health care,” the letter said. “As such, we warn decision-makers and the media not to interpret the results of this test as anything other than weakly designed artifacts.”


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