Due to the coronavirus outbreak, many people think that wearing a face mask is one of the most visible ways to protect themselves from the virus. However, health experts don’t think it will help so much.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said, “CDC does not recommend the use of facemasks for the general public to prevent the spread of coronavirus.”
The reason is because most people don’t know how to use face masks correctly, and often move the masks to the side to touch their faces throughout the day, breaking the barrier that the mask is supposed to create. This makes the protection ineffective.
Since the coronavirus outbreak started in Wuhan, China, on Dec. 31, more than 17,400 people have been infected and at least 360 have died. Cases have been recorded in 25 countries.
In Wuhan, authorities there have urged all citizens to wear masks in public places, since the virus seems to have an incubation period of up to two weeks. Many stores in China have reportedly sold out of masks.
Cao Jun, general manager for mask manufacturer Lanhine in China, told Reuters that Lanhine's normal one production rate is 400,000 per day although demand has reached 200 million masks per day.
On the other hand, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said, "In the United States, the risk to any individual American is extremely low."
The CDC said, "The immediate health risk to the general American public is considered low at this time."
The health agency only recommends face masks for people who are sick with the virus or believe they may be infected, and for people who live with or care for them when they're in the same room.
Dr. Frank Esper, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at the Cleveland Clinic, said, "If they are coughing, if they are feeling like they have symptoms, we do ask them to put on mask when they are coming to our waiting room or ER or into a public space."
"It helps prevent the spread of infection," said Esper.
According to the CDC, the best precautions are the standard, everyday ways to avoid all germs: wash your hands frequently, try not to touch your face, and avoid close contact with sick people.
Esper and other experts say washing your hands frequently is the best way to prevent the spread of infectious illnesses like coronavirus, or more commonly, the flu.
The CDC advises washing your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% of alcohol if soap and water are not available.
You also should avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands, avoid contact with sick people, cover your mouth when you cough and sneeze, and disinfect objects and surfaces frequently.