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  • Are Surgical Masks Enough To Protect From The 'Novel' Coronavirus?

    The new strain of the coronavirus is pushing people to wear masks outdoors.
    by Kitty Elicay .
Are Surgical Masks Enough To Protect From The 'Novel' Coronavirus?
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  • A new strain of the coronavirus called the 2019 ‘novel’-coronavirus (2019 nCoV) has Filipinos concerned after the Department of Health (DOH) disclosed that it is currently monitoring a 5-year-old child who tested positive for a still unidentified coronavirus strain. According to recent reports, the child has already recovered but remains in isolation until the DOH receives the result of a confirmatory test from Australia.

    “To date, there remains to be no confirmed cases of 2019-nCoV in the Philippines,” said the DOH in a statement. However, with over 550 confirmed cases in China and other countries like Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, Thailand, and the United States, Pinoys are already thinking of ways to protect themselves from the dreaded virus. This includes wearing the N95 particulate respirator masks they bought as a precaution against the ashfall from the Taal Volcano eruption.

    But experts say using surgical masks may be more appropriate in preventing the spread of the 2019 nCoV. Surgical masks block large, liquid droplets and splatter from the wearer’s mouth and nose. It also protects other people against infection that may come from the wearer’s saliva and respiratory secretions.

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    N95 masks, on the other hand, are designed to “achieve a very close facial fit and very efficient filtration of airborne particles,” according to the US Food and Drug Administration. It can block at least 95% of very small particles.

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    According to the National Center for Infectious Diseases (NCID) in Singapore, the N95 masks are not recommended for the general public. Instead, they are mainly used by medical staff, said Leo Yee Sin executive director of NCID in a report by The Straits Times.

    “If you find the N95 mask easy to breathe in and comfortable, you are wearing it wrong and it’s no use… you think you are protected but you are not,” said Prof. Sin.

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    Dr. Jay Ron Padua, FPPS, FPIDSP, a pediatric infectious disease specialist from the San Lazaro Hospital also says a surgical mask may be enough to guard against coronavirus. “Regular surgical mask is okay,” he tells SmartParenting.com.ph. “It’s just [for] droplet precaution so [you can use a] regular mask and just stay 3 to 6 feet away [from people] then you are good.”

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    According to the DOH, the elderly and children are most vulnerable to the 2019 nCoV. If their faces are too small for an N95 mask, then they can benefit from using a regular mask.

    However, if you have already bought the N95 mask, it’s still okay to use it, according to Dr. Padua. In the past, the N95 mask was recommended to individuals visiting hospitals at the height of the measles outbreak since “the virus is too small that it can still pass through the pores of a regular surgical mask.”

    The 2019 nCoV present respiratory symptoms that are common during flu season. The DOH and WHO emphasizes the importance of practicing good hygiene — frequent handwashing (using soap and water) and practicing proper cough etiquette. Maintain distance and cover coughing and sneezing with a tissue, handkerchief, or the crook of your elbow. It is also best to avoid close contact with people showing cold or flu-like symptoms.

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