CORONAVIRUS – WILL A FACEMASK HELP?
Fears about the spread of the virus are now widespread.
Many worried Brits have resorted to wearing face masks in the hopes of reducing their risk of catching the virus.
But does wearing a face mask actually help to protect you? With varying advice around the world, it can be difficult to know whether or not to wear one.
However,several countries urge their citizens to wear face masks.
“In the right circumstances face masks are helpful to reduce infection transmission, they are recommended for healthcare worker use after all.
Face masks can be used in two ways by the general public.
Firstly, people infected with the virus can wear masks to reduce the risk of them spreading the virus to other people,here is some evidence to support this and it is a widely recommended practice.
For example a symptomatic person could ear a mask to help prevent the spread of infection to a vulnerable household member.
“Of course this should not be done on its own. Distance isolation within the house and hand hygiene are at least, if not more important.”
While people can wear masks to try to avoid being infected, the evidence that this is helpful is ‘weak.’Studies done where household members wear a mask to protect themselves from an influenza infected household member did not find masks to be helpful overall. Possible reasons for this are that people find it difficult to be compliant with mask use all of the time and that people may start wearing the masks too late.
The other problem with the public wearing masks is that they do not have the resources available to ensure their safe use – changing them fairly often, hand hygiene frequently, taking them off safely and disposing of them safely.
If a mask does its job to prevent infection, it will become contaminated on the outside. If people then touch the mask they can contaminate their hands. Hands can they spread the virus to surfaces or to a persons mucous membranes.
“You might argue that most mucous membranes are covered by the mask and you can’t touch them but you can transmit infection via the eye and of course people do eventually take masks off (another opportunity to self contaminate).
Weearing a mask to walk down the street without coming into close contact with anyone else has no benefit at all and simply wastes resources. There is no evidence at all that the virus could or would exist in infectious amounts in outside air.
“Similarly futile is wearing gloves in public spaces. Gloves do not stop you touching your face and it may be that virus survives for longer on gloves than it does on skin. Hand hygiene is key and should be done on gloved hands just as often as you would for non-gloved hands.