From the beginning of the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, people have been wondering whether or not they should be wearing masks to protect themselves.
Over the weekend, at the same time that Covid-19 began to spread in the United States, the US Surgeon General warned the public against buying masks, saying outright that these do not prevent people from getting infected by the coronavirus.
In a tweet, America’s highest health official, Dr Jerome Adams, said:
“Seriously people — STOP BUYING MASKS! They are NOT effective in preventing general public from catching #Coronavirus, but if health care providers can’t get them to care for sick patients, it puts them and our communities at risk!”
Seriously people- STOP BUYING MASKS!
They are NOT effective in preventing general public from catching #Coronavirus, but if healthcare providers can’t get them to care for sick patients, it puts them and our communities at risk!
— U.S. Surgeon General (@Surgeon_General) February 29, 2020
He added: “The best way to protect yourself and your community is with everyday preventive actions, like staying home when you are sick and washing hands with soap and water, to help slow the spread of respiratory illness. Get your #FluShot — fewer flu patients = more resources for #COVID19“
On Friday (Feb 28), the executive director of the health emergency programme at the World Health Organization, Dr Michael Ryan, said during a briefing: “There are limits to how a mask can protect you from being infected. The most important thing everyone can do is wash your hands, keep your hands away from your face and observe very precise hygiene.”
He added: “Not having a mask does not necessarily put you at any increased risk of contracting this disease.”
According to the chairwoman of the Public Health Committee for the Infectious Diseases Society of America, Dr Julie Vaishampayan, masks should be considered as “the last line of defence” that could contribute to a false sense of security for wearers.
She said: “We worry about people feeling they’re getting more protection from the mask than they really are. Washing your hands and avoiding people who are ill is way more important than wearing a mask.”
What’s worse is that when people wear masks, they are far more likely to touch their faces and noses, which increases risk of infection.
An infection prevention specialist, Dr Eli Perencevich, has said that healthy people should not wear masks at all — whether surgical masks, N95 masks, or respirator masks.
Dr Perencevich said: “The average healthy person does not need to have a mask, and they shouldn’t be wearing masks. There’s no evidence that wearing masks on healthy people will protect them. They wear them incorrectly, and they can increase the risk of infection because they’re touching their face more often.”
He added: “Wearing a mask is tricky because it can create a false sense of security. If you don’t wash your hands before you take off the mask and after you take off your mask, you could increase your risk.”
If healthcare workers run out of masks because the public has used them all up, this would mean bad news for everybody. “We really need to get the message out not to take the masks from the hospitals. We’ve got to protect our healthcare workers because they’re the ones who are going to take care of us if we get sick.” /TISG