Academics in the New England Journal of Medicine have suggested that face masks are giving people immunity to COVID-19 and making them get less sick.

The unproven theory says that universal face mask-wearing would help decrease the prevalence and severity of the virus. This would mean a greater portion of cases are asymptomatic. Especially while the globe waits for a vaccine, a face mask would help decrease the rate of infection.

This hypothesis is supported by other research that has found that masks help reduce the viral load of the dose of the coronavirus received. If the wearer is exposed to the coronavirus while wearing a mask, their response to the disease could be less severe. Face masks could be part of “variolation,” and would help generate immunity and slow the spread of the virus, according to the study.

Dr. Monica Gandhi, an infectious disease doctor at the University of California, San Francisco, and one of the authors of the study, told the Telegraph, “To test the variolation hypothesis, we will need more studies comparing the strength and durability of SARS-CoV-2–specific T-cell immunity between people with asymptomatic infection and those with symptomatic infection, as well as a demonstration of the natural slowing of SARS-CoV-2 spread in areas with a high proportion of asymptomatic infections. However, it is true that the proportion of asymptomatic infection being increased by masking might increase the proportion of the population who achieve at least short-term immunity to the virus while we await a vaccine.”

Read more about protecting yourself from coronavirus. Check the CDC website for more information on how to protect yourself and check our latest article to learn how COVID-19 differs from the flu.

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