When Should You Use A Mask Amidst The Coronavirus Pandemic?
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Are Masks Mandatory?
As we all know by now, many countries including Malaysia are running very low in medical masks supply because of mass panic buying, factories shutting down, etc due to the coronavirus pandemic (read more about it here).
Furthermore, irrational and incorrect uses of masks among the people are causing wastage resulting in low supply and also an increase of prices for masks.
Here’s the real question, can medical surgical masks protect you from coronavirus?
Unlike an N95 respirator, medical masks cannot protect against the new coronavirus when used alone. It is only effective when combined with hand hygiene and other preventive measures.
The respirator is thicker than a surgical mask, but neither Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee nor the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) recommend it for public use.
Because it requires proper annual training and it is challenging to put on these masks. It can also get claustrophobic when wearing N95 for long periods of time as the edges of the respirator are designed to form a seal around the nose and mouth to achieve a very close facial fit and very efficient filtration of airborne particles.
WHO only recommends the use of medical surgical masks in specific cases as such:
- You should wear masks and seek medical care if you have cough, fever and difficulty breathing.
- If you do not have these symptoms, you do not need to wear masks as there is no evidence that they protect people who are not sick.
- However, if you are healthy but you are taking care of a person who with suspected COVID-19 infection, then you should wear a mask whenever you are in the same room with the person.
- Lastly, if you choose to wear a mask, you must know how to use it and discard it properly. Clean your hands with alcohol hand rub or soap and water before and after use.
Together, let’s help each other and use medical masks wisely to reduce the shortage and not put our medical health workers and those who are really in need at risk.