Just yesterday (30 Jan), I wrote an article pertaining to Dr Chia Shi-Lu’s views on surgical masks in Singapore: that they’re not necessary for healthy people, as they provide limited protection from airborne viruses. And today, I’m here with a follow-up article that seeks to back Dr Chia up on his point;
With advice from an expert in the US, no less.
And so folks, should you still have any reservations about the whole necessity of surgical masks in Singapore…
I think this article’s worth a read.
Expert in the US Also Says Surgical Masks Aren’t Needed for Healthy People to Prevent Infection
According to CNN, infectious disease expert Dr. Charles Chiu has spoken out about the need to adopt surgical masks, stating that while they’re helpful in communities where viruses are circulating wildly, they’re not necessary in states where there’s no evidence of sustained novel coronavirus transmission.
“Right now, there’s no evidence that [wearing face masks] is going to help prevent that infection,” Chiu, a professor of laboratory medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, told CNN. “I would not recommend that someone in the US who does not have direct exposure, did not recently travel to China…or in general that you go buy a face mask.”
According to the report, surgical masks do not protect against airborne droplets. While they technically do protect from large respiratory droplets (a spray from a sneeze or mucus from a cough), they aren’t regarded as respiratory protection by the CDC, as they fail to filter smaller particles and are therefore not “effective” in the prevention of coronavirus transmission.
“Wearing a surgical mask helps you prevent sharing your germs if you’re sick,” Saskia Popescu, a hospital epidemiologist and infection prevention expert, told CNN. “Surgical masks do not seal around the face, so while they offer some protection, it’s the N95 mask that offers the most protection.”
However, N95 masks aren’t recommended for the general public, as they require an in-depth know-how to pull off correctly. Any less-than-complimentary knowledge of the matter would cancel out the effectiveness of the mask. In addition, Chiu said that N95 respirators are “quite uncomfortable” to wear for long periods of time, and taking it off would also negate the effects of wearing it.
A False Sense Of Security
While surgical masks aren’t a “fail-safe”, Popescu said, they’re “better than nothing” in areas like China’s Heibo Province, where the coronavirus is thought to be actively spreading. The US, however, is different.
Speaking in the same vein as Dr Chia, Popesu reveals that wearing a mask in the US could give wearers a “false sense of security”. By adopting the mask, concerned people may end up falling short on their personal hygiene standards, washing their hands only when they feel like it and being overconfident in contact with people, where infected personnel may lurk.
“That’s really not the nature of transmission,” he said. “That’s thought to be contact transmission — touching infected surfaces, touching the eyes and nose.”
Chiu and the CDC also spoke of the basic measures one could implement to protect oneself: avoid contact with sick people, stay home when sick and continuously washing one’s hands with soap. And while they admitted that the situation could yet change, they reiterated that Americans don’t actually need to wear masks in public.
“We should certainly continue to monitor the situation closely, but right now is not the time to panic,” he said.