Singapore: Chinese researchers have developed a mask that lets users know if they have been exposed to COVID-19 or the flu, a development that could help vulnerable populations even as the use of face coverings declines and more countries ease virus restrictions.
A sensor built into a mask was able to detect the COVID-19, H5N1 and H1N1 flu viruses in the air within 10 minutes and send notifications to a device, according to the study led by six scientists working with the Tongji University in Shanghai. The peer-reviewed findings have been published in the scientific journal Matter on Monday.
While the pandemic has led to widespread mask-wearing and a proliferation of designs – including a version with a microphone – the easing of COVID-related mandates has led to a decline in use in most major economies.
Still, the use of masks remains widespread in countries, including China, which has strict COVID-Zero policies, while many people around the world continue to wear them to protect themselves and others from the virus, regardless of government regulations.
A axios– An Ipsos survey in early September found that 37 percent of Americans wear masks outdoors, compared to 89 percent two years ago.
The new device, mounted outside the mask with a rechargeable lithium battery, was tested by spraying pathogens onto it in an indoor environment, simulating a likely scenario of someone talking or coughing. Sensors responded to liquid about 70 to 560 times less than the amount produced in a sneeze, sending alerts to wireless devices such as a telephone.
The researchers said the device is best used in enclosed spaces where the risk of infection is high, and are working to shorten the detection times and sensitivity of the device, which can be configured for different viruses as needed. No cost estimates have been published for the accessory.