How can medical mask protect against coronavirus infection?

January 25, 2020  18:11

Most residents of Wuhan and other Chinese cities are wearing medical masks to protect themselves from 2019-nCoV coronavirus infection. But can a mask really provide the right protection?

Other coronaviruses

Not enough is known about the new coronavirus. However, science is already familiar with the 'close relative' of the virus, which caused the development of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). In 2003, there was an epidemic of the disease, and 9% of those infected died.

At least nine studies showed that masks did indeed protect against SARS infection: those who wore the mask constantly were infected 70% less often than those who never wore it. Those who wore the mask periodically got sick 60% less often.

Which masks to choose?

There are 2 main types of masks - surgical and respiratory. One study found that respiratory protection better against infection, but other studies have not confirmed this. According to current data, the effectiveness of both types of masks is approximately the same.

Experts' opinion

Dr. Julie Vaishampayan, chair of the American Infectious Diseases Society’s Health Committee, told the New York Times people feel more secure when they wear masks, but it’s actually more important to avoid talking to sick people and wash their hands often.

Many people wear masks incorrectly, as Amesh Adalja, an infectious disease specialist at the Johns Hopkins Center, said in turn: people can scratch their face or nose under a mask and thus cause infection. The mask cannot be removed while talking on the phone.

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