'Half-mask' warning: UNC study finds uncovered nose may heighten COVID-19 infection risk

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- Researchers are issuing a new warning about why wearing your mask below your nose could put you and those nearby at risk for COVID-19.

Previous studies have showing the incredible amount of particles that can come out of our mouths just from speaking but now, researchers say when it comes to getting infected, they have their eye on the nose.

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By now we all know that N-95 masks are better than surgical masks which are better than cloth masks which are better than a scarf or bandana.

"Things likely started in the nose," said Professor of Medicine at UNC, Dr. Richard Boucher. "And the nose is the purveyor of all viral illness."

A group of 43 researchers at the University of North Carolina mapped locations in the respiratory tract to see where COVID-19 most likely infiltrates the body. They found the cells that line the nose may be more likely to become infected with the virus than the throat or lungs.

"The virus appeared to pick the nose as a fertile ground for infection," said Boucher.

A picture from the study shows different parts of the respiratory system after being infected with the same amount of the virus. More green dots in the nasal cavity indicate many more cells infected in the nose, researchers say.

"Remember, we've only known about this virus for about seven or eight months," said ABC News Medical Contributor Dr. Todd Ellerin. "So the more we learn about the mechanism of how the virus causes infection in humans is key. I think this study is important."

And public officials have warned us, saying covering your nose with a mask is just as important as your mouth.

"Wearing a mask if you're infected is how you'll protect your fellow citizens. The inverse is also true. If you're wearing a mask, you'll protect yourself," said Boucher.
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