The Philippines confirmed its first case of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) yesterday, January 30, and 23 others are still under observation. The 2019-nCoV is a respiratory illness that has infected over 9,000 individuals, in at least 15 countries, and over 200 deaths have been reported as of writing. The World Health Organization (WHO) has already declared this outbreak a global health emergency.
With the first confirmed case, the Department of Health (DOH) has advised people to wear face masks when going out, especially children, the elderly, and those with pre-existing illnesses. This has resulted in masks being sold out in both online and physical stores. But what is the most appropriate mask to use during times when there’s a contagious virus affecting the country?
My Pope lists the different kinds of face masks and its effectivity.
The surgical mask we often see hospital staff wear is the cheapest and most accessible option when it comes to face masks. However, it does not provide total protection from diseases or illnesses. They do protect the user from possible illnesses, but just those with “a visible splash or spray of fluid or large droplets,” according to a National Public Radio interview Raina MacIntyre, an infectious disease researcher and professor.
This mask is more expensive than the surgical mask, as it is designed to fit tightly around the nose and mouth. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), when the N95 mask is worn properly, it is able to block at least 95% of airborne particles. However, it is not advisable for people who have pre-existing lung conditions, as the tight fit may make it difficult for them to breathe. Some people may also find the tight fit uncomfortable.
Cloth masks are popular in Asian countries, such as China and Korea, whose celebrities also wear this kind of mask during winter. However, cloth masks might do more harm than good to its users. Research by Raina MacIntyre shows that the moisture retention in the mask and seldom washing of the mask can cause pathogens to breed on the mask.
No matter what mask you are using, make sure to avoid touching the front of the mask when removing it. This is to protect yourself from infection of any virus that the mask has blocked.