This article is not here to supersede medical guidance about masks or create controversy. It is simply written to share information about the Valley Fever Survivor face mask and the science of mask use for those who are interested. See the sources and links to learn more.
Many states are still requiring the use of masks during the COVID-19 epidemic. That’s where the Valley Fever Survivor Face Mask comes in.
These are custom printed by Cafe Press at the lowest price their interface allows. While the printer may make a profit for manufacturing and shipping the custom mask, Valley Fever Survivor itself does not make any profit from this product whatsoever. We just want to make this available for those who might want to start a conversation about the other epidemic, Valley Fever.
It would take an N95 or better mask to offer protection against Valley Fever’s 2 micrometer arthroconidial spores, and the fit of the N95 is a critical part of what makes it so valuable. Even one spore can cause a devastating, even lethal infection.
Although the coronavirus is smaller than the Valley Fever spores, they are often contained in droplets of exhaled air that form aerosols with droplets of varying sizes. This makes even cloth masks genuine viral protection, if not perfect. A mask wearer is less likely to inhale the viral material and less likely to exhale it onto another person.
When noted for the amount of air a person is likely to inhale under light walking circumstances (Kannan), a cloth surgical mask’s poor fit allowed about a 25% leakage (He et al) of air and accompanying particles.
In coronavirus terms, that’s 75% protection versus zero percent without a mask. This makes cloth masks a real consideration. Another study (Davies) compared mask effectiveness against particles slightly larger than the coronavirus with different types of fabric.
The value of each fabric should also be downgraded considering the lack of perfect fit in non-surgical, non-NIOSH approved products. Each could be 25% less effective. But even considering the least protective fabric in the study, a 25% hit to the scarf’s 49% effectiveness takes it down to 37% protection, which is still far better than zero protection.
Those who are against the use of masks for public health wrongly claim the science supports them, based on two summaries of previous mask studies that, in aggregate, said masks could not be proven to work against virus transmission in randomized controlled trials (Xiao et al and Javid et al). However, if you were to follow the links below and read the summaries yourself, some of the data showed masks helped. Other studies cited were seen to have poor compliance and missing data when masks were ineffective. No anti-mask studies were seen by the scientists as conclusive in light of the material evidence that fabric was shown in laboratories to filter viral particles.
In fact, one study that appeared at first to suggest that masks were useless actually had no maskless control group (MacIntyre et al). Further scientific review of the article, including from its own authors, noted its limitations and that cloth masks were about two-thirds as effective as medical N95 respirators (BMJ Open). Considering the fit and possible fabrics used, this is in line with the protection graphed in the 2013 study pictured above.
Far from suggesting masks are useless, the evidence suggests they should be fitted tightly and made of materials that will provide as much protection as possible.
The mask printed with Valley Fever Survivor’s name and logo at our Cafe Press Store has the following information:
“Our cloth Face Masks are comfortable and contain an inner layer of 100% cotton and an outer layer of 100% polyester. Unfortunately, we do not offer neoprene face masks, although we believe ours are softer and better performing given their 100% cotton inner layer. Our Face Masks features an elastic over the ear loop using spandex for comfort. We include a two pack of carbon filters to enhance the air filtration effect of the mask on the air you breathe to provide maximum protection. Our personalized face masks are machine washable in warm water. We recommend that you hang dry your custom face mask after washing it. Our one size fits all custom Face Masks fit both children and adults comfortably.”
You can see more of the Valley Fever Survivor mask and order it at
Again, we do not earn any money on the sale of this mask. It is strictly sold at the base price at Cafe Press. Since many of you are wearing masks due to COVID-19 rules, we thought we would make this product in case anyone was interested.
For more information about masks:
Kannan R. Breathing Rates and Breathing Air Constituents. Int J Innov Sci Eng Technol. Vol 2, iss 4. 557-558. Apr 2015. http://ijiset.com/vol2/v2s4/IJISET_V2_I4_81.pdf
He X, Reponen T, McKay RT, Grinshpun SA. Effect of Particle Size on the Performance of an N95 Filtering Facepiece Respirator and a Surgical Mask at Various Breathing Conditions. Aerosol Sci Technol. 2013;47(11):1180-1187. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/02786826.2013.829209
Davies A, Thompson KA, Giri K, Kafatos G, Walker J, Bennett A. Testing the efficacy of homemade masks: would they protect in an influenza pandemic?. Disaster Med Public Health Prep. 2013;7(4):413-418. https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/disaster-medicine-and-public-health-preparedness/article/testing-the-efficacy-of-homemade-masks-would-they-protect-in-an-influenza-pandemic/0921A05A69A9419C862FA2F35F819D55/core-reader
Image credit based on the study by Davies, et al: EBSCO. COVID-19: Ten Things You Need to Know. EBSCO Health News. 9 April 2020
MacIntyre CR, Seale H, Dung TC, et al. A cluster randomised trial of cloth masks compared with medical masks in healthcare workers. BMJ Open. 2015;5(4):e006577. Published 2015 Apr 22.
Javid B, Weekes MP, Matheson NJ. Covid-19: should the public wear face masks?. BMJ. 2020;369:m1442. Published 2020 Apr 9. https://www.bmj.com/content/369/bmj.m1442
Xiao J, Shiu EYC, Gao H, Wong JY, Fong MW, Ryu S, Cowling BJ. Nonpharmaceutical Measures for Pandemic Influenza in Nonhealthcare Settings-Personal Protective and Environmental Measures. Emerg Infect Dis. 2020 May;26(5):967-975. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7181938/
BMJ Open Responses. Reader Responses to: A cluster randomised trial of cloth masks compared with medical masks in healthcare workers. https://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/5/4/e006577.responses Last accessed 2 Aug 2020.
The official Valley Fever Survivor mask has no mark-up over the manufacturer’s base price and therefore does not fund VFS in any way. It can be a fun way to start a conversation, but should not be considered protection against Valley Fever. It may be a way of complying with COVID-19 mask requirements according to the manufacturer. Check it out at https://www.cafepress.com/vfsurvivor.545684617