Can wearing a medical face mask protect you against the new coronavirus? It’s a matter many people are asking, including pet owners who are putting canine face masks on their dogs. If it’s a normal surgical face mask, the reply is no, Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee, told Live Science.
A more specialized mask, known as an N95 respirator, can control the newest coronavirus, also referred to as SARS-CoV-2. The respirator is thicker than a surgical mask, but neither Schaffner nor the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) recommend it for public use, a minimum of not at this particular point. That’s because, partly, it’s challenging to put on these masks and put them on for long time periods, he explained.
Specialists receive retraining annually concerning how to properly fit these respirators across the nose, cheeks and chin, making sure wearers don’t breathe across the edges of the respirator. “When you accomplish that, it ends up that the work of breathing, since you’re going through a really thick material, is harder. You must work to breathe in and out. It’s a bit claustrophobic. It can get moist and hot within,” Schaffner said.
“I know i can wear them when I have to for around one half-hour,” he added. “But then, I will need to go out from the isolation room, remove it and try taking a little deep breaths, kind of cool off, before I can go back in.”
Even though it still might be possible to snag an N95 respirator online, Schaffner advised against it. If too many people unnecessarily stockpile respirators, a shortage could put the healthiness of medical workers and those that need them at risk, Schaffner said.
Surgical masks – The thinner surgical mask is meant for surgeons, because these products conduct a good job of keeping pathogens from your doctor’s nose and mouth from entering the surgical field, Schaffner said.
In some Asian countries, including Japan and China, it’s not unusual to view people wearing surgical masks in public to protect against pathogens and pollution. But those masks don’t help much in the context of any virus, Schaffner said. “They’re not created to keep out viral particles, and they’re not nearly as tightly fitted around your nose and cheeks” being an N95 respirator, he stated.
“Could they be of some use? Yes, however the effect will probably be modest,” Schaffner said.
He noted that some people wear surgical masks as they are sick having a cold or the flu and they don’t want to get other individuals sick. But if you’re sick, it’s best just not to attend public areas. “That’s the time to remain home,” Schaffner said.
People sick with COVID-19, however, should wear face masks to lessen the risk of infection to people around them, in accordance with the CDC. Medical care workers and the ones “caring for someone contaminated with COVID-19 in close settings (at home or in a healthcare facility),” also needs to wear face masks, the CDC reported.
People wearing surgical masks should dump them after each use, the CDC added.
Otherwise, the simplest way to avoid getting the coronavirus is always to, first and foremost, postpone any travel to places with known outbreaks. You can also thoroughly wash both hands with soap; avoid touching the eyes, nose and mouth xfsvee unwashed hands; avoid close exposure to those who are sick; and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces, the CDC recommends.
As for pet owners putting face masks on their dogs, a Pomeranian dog in Hong Kong tested positive a “weak positive” for COVID-19. That dog is now in quarantine, but is not showing signs and symptoms of the disease, based on a March 5 piece in the South China Morning Post. However, it’s unclear how the dog was tested for the illness. What’s more, it doesn’t appear that pets can transmit the virus to humans, and experts told people who have pets to not panic.