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Study looks behind the effectiveness of masks

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, health experts have been pleading with the public to wear masks when they come in contact with others. A new study is now backing that advice.

"It's the first evidence that we've had--hard evidence--that using a mask really helps," said Dr. Nancy Nielsen, Senior Associate Dean for Health Policy at UB's Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

"It turns out if a person is not wearing a mask they are six times more likely to transmit the (coronavirus) virus than if they are wearing a mask, "Nielsen offered during her weekly appearance on WBFO. The studies, she said, compared findings from COVID-19 patients in New York and Italy.

"So, for those who feel their civil liberties have been compromised (by wearing a mask), please think about everybody because it really is hard evidence now that this makes good public health sense."

Other studies, Nielsen reports, show certain steroids have been occasionally effective in helping COVID-19 patients overcome its impact. One effort looked at 6,500 COVID-19 patients in England.

"They were given dexamethasone, which is a steroid that's been around for years," said Nielsen while noting the study has yet to be peer-reviewed.

"But this is the very first evidence that appears to be developing that the death rate can be improved."

For people on ventilators, Nielsen said, there was a "35 percent decrease in mortality" if they were given dexamethasone. Patients on oxygen saw a 20 percent decrease.

UB is also conducting its own study using a different inhaled steroid. Those enrolling in the study can be treated at home with a "safe drug that's been around for a long time," Nielsen said. The key factor, however, is a patient needs to enroll within 72 hours of testing positive for the virus.

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