Due to the emergence of the new 2019-nCoV coronavirus in pharmacies around the world, the demand for disposable masks has increased sharply , people in which can increasingly be seen on the street and in transport. At the same time, no authoritative medical organization in the world has given official recommendations to wear a mask to protect against infection. Let’s see what masks actually protect from and how to prevent infection.
Particles of the virus are microscopic and can penetrate through the pores in a conventional surgical mask and around, where it does not fit tightly to the face. There are more reliable respirators, the so-called N95, which means that they filter out 95% of particles 0.3 microns or more from the air. True, the average size of the coronavirus is slightly more than 0.1 micron, so theoretically it can penetrate through the N95 mask. We also note that these masks are more expensive, not suitable for children or people with a beard and mustache, and in the US they are generally considered medical devices, so they may not be so easy to buy.
True, even a simple surgical mask is able to delay the spread of droplets of saliva from the person who put it on – therefore, it is believed that it is needed first of all for the sick, and not for the healthy. In this case, the main rule must be observed: do not touch the mask and everything under it. An ideal case looks like this: a person with ARVI is at home, if possible, and if it is necessary to go to a pharmacy or a store, puts on a mask, makes purchases without touching his face, removes the mask at home, throws it away and thoroughly washes his hands.
In some cases, masks are actually used for bilateral protection – for example, it is important for the surgeon not only to prevent his own cells and fluids from entering the wound, but also to protect his nose, mouth and eyes from the patient’s blood. Dentists need glasses and masks so that not only microbes from dental plaque, but also mechanical particles do not get into the face. The same applies to manicurists – when processing nails, hard fragments fly around.
Respiratory viruses are quickly killed in the air and are transmitted by close contact. A healthy person who is not in the immediate vicinity of the source of infection does not need a mask. It can come in handy if you visit someone in the hospital or work there. In cramped public transport, if you cannot move away from a sneezing or coughing person, you can put on a mask (at least for your own comfort) – the main thing is not to touch it until it is time to take it off and throw it away, and then wash your hands thoroughly.
A healthy person who is
in the immediate vicinity
of the source of infection does not need a mask
In principle, all this applies to any virus that causes respiratory diseases. Like the causative agent of influenza, the new coronavirus is especially dangerous for weakened people, the elderly, for those with confirmed immunodeficiency – and if you have such a diagnosis, then you know for sure about it and take special precautions.
In Australia, it is recommended to put on a mask and see a doctor for those who have returned from China within the last two weeks and notice symptoms of a cold, as well as for medical staff working with such patients. The US CDC recommends that healthcare workers wear N95 masks and goggles when entering rooms where people with suspected or confirmed infections are, and remove and discard them when exiting.
To protect yourself from infection (not only with the new coronavirus), you need to remember about simple rules and follow them: do not panic, often and properly (at least twenty seconds) wash your hands with warm water and soap, and if this is not possible, use an alcohol sanitizer , do not touch eyes, nose and mouth. It is a good idea to regularly wipe down your work surfaces and avoid touching common items with your bare hands, such as a doorknob in a public toilet or a microwave button in an office kitchen. If someone sneezes or coughs, try to step back a couple of steps.
Also, for the near future, you should refrain from traveling to China, and if you have recently been there and you have shortness of breath, a fever or a cough, you need to seek medical help as soon as possible. Stock up on disposable cough and sneeze tissues (in extreme cases, sneeze into the elbow, but not into the palm). If you get sick, do not go to work or school – recover faster, and at the same time take care of those around you.