HEALTH: Can face masks protect you from the coronavirus? Experts weigh in

Some Canadians concerned about coronavirus in the wake of one confirmed and another presumptive case in Canada have been strapping on surgical masks to go outside. But can these face masks actually guard against the virus?

According to doctors, the answer for the average person is largely no — but context and setting need to be taken into account.

Surgical face masks have been sold out from the shelves in some Canadian cities ever since coronavirus reports started ramping up.

The most common face masks are loose surgical masks with elastic loops that go around the ears. The masks cover the mouth without creating a seal around it. One side is generally coloured blue, and is meant to face outwards. The top of the mask has a metal strip to mold to the bridge of the nose.

These masks do little for a healthy person, doctors say, but they could be useful for someone who is sick and trying not to spread the illness

The N95 respirator mask, which is made of a thicker material and designed to fit more closely to the face, may be more effective at blocking viruses in general, but it needs to be fit tested, worn properly and replaced frequently — making them inefficient for regular use by the public.

However, there’s no evidence that those masks would work against the new coronavirus either.

Many people don’t follow proper health etiquette while wearing a facial mask, Williams said, which essentially negates any benefits a mask could’ve had.

Dr. Sohail Ghandi, president of the Ontario Medical Association, said  that “handwashing is more effective than face masks with this particular virus, particularly if you’re not infected.”

According to Dr. Eileen de Villa, Medical Officer of Health for the City of Toronto, the best thing people can do if they are feeling ill is simply to stay home, and to seek medical attention if symptoms worsen.

If a sick person needs to travel on public transit, observing sneezing and coughing etiquette by coughing into an elbow and turning away from other passengers is important.



Posted in All Stories, News

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