Coronavirus outbreak: should you wear a face mask?

Since the coronavirus hit our
headlines a few weeks ago,and now a lot of people seem to be getting ill,not only in China but also in other countries,you may be wondering whether
you need to wear a face maskto protect yourself against it. So, the advice of the public health
authorities in most placesis that masks are really not necessary
and they may actually be unhelpful. And one of those reasons is becausepeople will assume that they are
protected when perhaps they’re not. The advice they do give is to keep well
clear of anybody who has got a nasty virus. That’s not the necessarily
the coronavirus, of course,but if you’re worried then
you should keep your distance. They don’t think the particles
can travel more than about a metre. It’s very different in China where
lots of people are wearing masks,and in fact they’ve been
instructed to do so. And the reason for that is that
there is so much of the virus around. So they are protecting other people. The advice is different in different countries,and because we have so few infections
in a country like the UKor in the United States,on the whole, it’s not really
a sensible precaution to wear a mask. The coronavirus family are airborne viruses,so we know they are spread through the
air by people coughing and sneezing. The droplets can either be inhaled
by people who breathe them in,or they can land on surfaces which then
people might touch with their handsand their hands go to their eyes
or their nose or their mouth,and in that way it enters their own body. The sort of face masks that
we see mostly in picturesseem to be the standard surgical face masksthat are worn in the operating theatre. There is another face mask as well as the N95,and that has a different sort of shape,
it’s a bit more round. The standard surgical masks may
help prevent some of the transmissionbut they really are not foolproof at all. You can’t stop the viral particles
going around the edges for a startand also, they are going to
collect on the outside of the mask. And then as you take it off,they’ll go all over your hands. If your hands go to your face
then you could get infected too. There is a way of getting them off which
involves pulling them off with the straps onlybut it’s still a bit of a business. The N95 mask will protect you against
particles but they’re very hot to wearand they’re very difficult to put on. You have to be trained almost to do it. When it’s on your breathing
is quite restricted, too. Wash your hands and keep washing them. This is maybe the most important thing
because the virus actually is transmittedfrom hands to other hands or
from skin to skin quite easily. If in doubt, or if you haven’t
washed your hands,don’t put your hands anywhere
near your eyes, nose or mouth. If you do feel the need
to sneeze or cough yourself,use a tissue and then bin it straight
away afterwards, and wash your hands. If you don’t have a tissue so you can’t do that,then sneeze into the inside of your elbow
because that keeps any virus awayfrom your hands where you might
transmit it to other people.

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