News Coronavirus Australian researchers to trial snorkel masks as a means of preventing coronavirus infections
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Australian researchers to trial snorkel masks as a means of preventing coronavirus infections

Monash University is researching whether snorkel masks could be used in the fight to protect health workers. Photo: Getty
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Forget conventional face masks.

Amid the scramble to get protective equipment for health workers, Monash University researchers are looking to repurpose scuba gear to stave off the coronavirus.

The snorkel masks that people wear when swimming around the Great Barrier Reef or merely breathing underwater may be the next go-to for workers on the front line of the coronavirus fight.

They’ll be adapted in a trial by researchers from the Monash Institute of Medical Engineering and clinicians from Monash Partners Academic Health Science Centre.

The idea is that snorkel masks allow for oxygen to enter the body through the nose or mouth and filters air as it is exhaled.

That means it could be an effective solution to limiting the spread of contaminated droplets and stopping a potential virus outbreak. 

Dr Simon Joosten, a senior research fellow at Monash University and respiratory specialist at Monash Health, said researchers had considered how best patients could be ventilated while reducing viral spread.

“This led to designing new prototypes, undertaking lab experiments and now testing our solutions with patients in clinical trials to address these challenges,” he said in a statement on Tuesday.

“This important work will assist in the usage of these types of masks worldwide.”

Snorkel masks are just one of a range of alternative protection solutions being investigated by the researchers as a way of reducing the spread of COVID-19 among health workers and patients.

In another potential solution, the Monash teams are also developing modified CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) ventilation masks for critically ill patients.

Ordinary CPAP masks have a vent in the front that prevents patients from rebreathing their own carbon dioxide.

However, the vent can also allow sick patients to spread the virus to other patients and healthcare staff.

The team has developed a sealed CPAP mask which, along with the snorkel mask, also has the potential to provide treatment while minimising virus spread.

-with AAP