With the recent news on the spread of the “Wuhan coronavirus” people have been buying masks to protect themselves from it. But some questions about masks have been raised: Will wearing a mask protect us from the virus? How do we know which mask to buy? Are we wearing the mask properly?
Are masks effective?
There have been several arguments whether or not masks can prevent infection. 1 Though it may not fully protect a person from the virus, it may be helpful. Masks are classified under the United States food and drug administration (FDA) Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Title 21 CFR 878.4040 as personal equipment that protects both the patient and persons he / she is in contact with, from transmission of those such as body fluids like respiratory droplets. 2
Things to consider when buying a mask: 3
The mask should fit snugly over the face, covering both the nose and mouth. Smaller sizes are available for children.
The most common masks available are the so-called “surgical masks”. These appear to be less protective than N95 masks, but a study according to Smith et al., 1 concluded that their difference in terms of protecting against respiratory infection transmission was not significant. Therefore, if N95 masks are unavailable, surgical masks would do.
Surgical masks that effectively protect from respiratory diseases have a three-layer design: a colored outer fluid-repellent layer, a middle layer as the barrier from germs, and an innermost layer for absorbing moisture from droplets when coughing and sneezing.
Wear masks properly 4,3
When worn properly, masks can effectively prevent the spread of infectious respiratory diseases transmitted via droplets.
- Perform hand hygiene
Wash your hands properly with soap and water, scrubbing all areas of your hands together for at least 20 seconds. Rinse thoroughly then air-dry or use a clean towel to dry your hands.
- Determine the position of the mask
The colored side with the folds facing downwards should be outside, while the white side is the one in contact with your skin. Other than the folds facing downwards, the easiest way you can differentiate the top from the bottom is with the metallic strip for the nose being on the top.
- Secure the mask onto your face
For the ear-loops type of mask, simply put the loops around each ear. For tie-type, first tie the upper ties securely on the back of your head, and then the lower ties on the nape.
Make sure it is covering both your nose and mouth.
Pinch down on the metallic strip on the top part of the mask onto the nose bridge to take the shape of your nose, and lightly pull down on the bottom of the mask to extend the mask to the bottom of your chin to fully cover your mouth .
Avoid touching the mask once worn.
- Mask removal
Wash your hands before removing the mask. Do not touch the outer colored part of the mask as there might be germs on it. For ear loops, gently remove the mask with both hands, one hand on each ear loop and dispose of it. For ties, remove the tied knot on the nape first then remove the knot on the back of the head, and dispose. Perform hand hygiene again after removing the mask. Once the mask is removed, do not use it again. Use a new mask if needed and replace the mask once it is damaged or soiled.
Other recommendations and preventive measures 3
Other than proper wearing of masks, we should keep ourselves healthy and in good condition. Simple things like performing proper hand hygiene frequently and avoidance of touching your eyes, nose, and mouth can make a big difference. It is also advised to stay at home as much as possible, avoid crowded areas, and minimize unnecessary social contacts.
Remember: WUHAN 5
W- ash your hands often
U- se masks properly and when necessary
H- ave your temperature checked regularly for fever, especially if you’ve just traveled to Wuhan
A- void large crowds and stay at home especially if you are sick
N- ever touch your face with unclean hands
Is wearing a mask protect us from the virus? How do we know which mask to buy? Are we wearing the mask properly? Watch the video for more information.
1 Smith, JD, Macdougall, CC, Johnstone, J., Copes, RA, Schwartz, B., & Garber, GE (2016). Effectiveness of N95 respirators versus surgical masks in protecting health care workers from acute respiratory infection: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Canadian Medical Association Journal, 188 (8), 567–574. doi: 10.1503 / cmaj.150835
2 Patel, RB, Skaria, SD, Mansour, MM, & Smaldone, GC (2016). Respiratory source control using a surgical mask: Anin vitrostudy. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene, 13 (7), 569–576. doi: 10.1080 / 15459624.2015.1043050
3 Center for Health Protection Department of Health The Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. (2020, January 23). Use Mask Properly. Retrieved from https://www.chp.gov.hk/files/pdf/use_mask_properly.pdf
4 GovHK. (2015, April 29). Wearing Mask. Retrieved from https://www.info.gov.hk/info/sars/en/facemask.htm
5 CNN Philippines Staff. (2020, January 27). Clean devices, drink fluids: Simple ways to protect yourself from coronavirus. Retrieved from https://www.cnn.ph/news/2020/1/27/How-to-protect-yourself-from-coronavirus-tips.html