Coronavirus Safety: What You Need to Know About Surgical Masks

Types of masks.

Surgical masks (left) are not a proven solution for preventing viral infections whereas N95 masks (right) might actually be of help. (Image: Hammekko via Dreamstime)

As the coronavirus spreads throughout the world, some suggest that wearing surgical masks would protect oneself from being infected by the virus. While such masks do offer some kind of protection, they are not the infallible defense that you are hoping for.

Surgical masks and virus protection

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does not advise people to use surgical masks in times of viral outbreaks. There are two reasons for this. The first is that wearing surgical masks is not a proven solution for preventing viral infections. Worse, someone thinking masks would keep them safe might end up indulging in activities that might eventually get them infected.

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Without a mask, they might have desisted from such activities and kept themselves safe. As such, the CDC wants everyone to always remain alert to the possibility of viral infection rather than lower their guard under a sense of false security.

The second reason is that the public will rush to buy these face masks, eventually causing a shortage of the item. Such a situation would pose a problem for healthcare workers who will need them to do their jobs. In fact, pharmacies across America are reporting a spike in face mask demand. CVC Health Corp. even warns that the increased public demand might cause some shortages at stores.

“The virus is not spreading in the general community… We don’t routinely recommend the use of face masks by the public to prevent respiratory illness. And we certainly are not recommending that at this time for this new virus,” Nancy Messonnier, Director of the Center for the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said in a statement (Market Watch).

N95 masks block at least 95 percent of tiny particles.
N95 masks block at least 95 percent of tiny particles. (Image: via Wikimedia Commons)

Now, there is another mask apart from the surgical mask that might actually be of help to you when there is a virus outbreak. Called an N95 mask, the CDC has recommended that healthcare workers wear it to protect themselves against MERS. To get the full benefits of N95, one should wear it firmly around the mouth and nose, ensuring that there are no gaps.

“The N95 respirator gets its name from the fact that it blocks at least 95 percent of tiny particles. Several brands manufacture N95 respirators, and they come in all different sizes. When shopping for this kind of mask, be sure the packaging says ‘N95’ — some masks will only say ‘respirator,’ but if they aren’t marked as N95, you won’t get the full level of protection,” according to CNET.

Protection from viruses

To protect yourself from coronavirus, you have to adopt some stringent practices. First, avoid eating raw and undercooked animal products, especially if you are living in an infected area. In fact, if you can completely avoid meat and all related products, definitely do it. When you start experiencing breathing difficulty, cough, and fever, consult a doctor immediately.

Hand washing is key to prevent the spread of viruses.
Hand washing is key to preventing the spread of viruses. (Image: via Pixabay)

As far as personal hygiene is concerned, wash your hands often with clean water and soap. Lather your hands, including the backs, between your fingers, and under your nails, and scrub for at least 20 seconds. Rinse… Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, then throw the tissue in the bin and wash your hands. If you do not have a tissue to hand, cough or sneeze into your elbow rather than your hands,” according to The Guardian.

Buy N95 masks for you and your family members, including a few spares. Only go out of the home in these masks. It is advisable that you keep the kids inside and do not let them roam around as children might end up carelessly getting themselves into contact with the virus. 

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