All of the discussions about surgical masks got me thinking; what do we know about viruses (CVID-19 or others), and what are the EXPERTS saying? I wanted to explore this topic and share my thoughts.
NOTICE: Published April 1, 2020 – The information in this post/episode is subject to change.
As of April 1, 2020, the WHO, CDC, OSHA guidance on wearing masks (if you are HEALTHY) is the same; you do NOT need to wear a mask except for specific circumstances. Let’s read what they have to say.
World Health Organization
On the Questions and Answers page: Should I wear a mask to protect myself?
Only wear a mask if you are ill with COVID-19 symptoms (especially coughing) or looking after someone who may have COVID-19. A disposable face mask can only be used once. If you are not ill or looking after someone who is sick, then you are wasting a mask. There is a world-wide shortage of masks, so WHO urges people to use masks wisely.
WHO advises the rational use of medical masks to avoid unnecessary wastage of precious resources and misuse of masks (see Advice on the use of masks).
The most effective ways to protect yourself and others against COVID-19 are to frequently clean your hands, cover your cough with the bend of elbow or tissue and maintain a distance of at least 1 meter (3 feet) from people who are coughing or sneezing (the rest of us use 6 feet). See basic protective measures against the new coronavirus for more information.
What does the CDC say about wearing asks?
Wear a facemask if you are sick
- If you are sick: You should wear a facemask when you are around other people (e.g., sharing a room or vehicle) and before you enter a healthcare provider’s office. If you are not able to wear a facemask (for example, because it causes trouble breathing), then you should do your best to cover your coughs and sneezes, and people who are caring for you should wear a facemask if they enter your room. Learn what to do if you are sick.
- If you are NOT sick: You do not need to wear a facemask unless you are caring for someone who is sick (and they are not able to wear a facemask). Facemasks may be in short supply, and they should be saved for caregivers.
Surgical masks also protect other people against infection from the person wearing the surgical mask. Such masks trap large particles of body fluids that may contain bacteria or viruses expelled by the wearer.
Surgical masks are used for several different purposes, including the following:
- They are placed on sick people to limit the spread of infectious respiratory secretions to others.
- They are worn by healthcare providers to prevent accidental contamination of patients’ wounds by the organisms normally present in mucus and saliva.
- Worn by workers to protect themselves from splashes or sprays of blood or bodily fluids, they may also keep contaminated fingers/hands away from the mouth and nose.
Surgical masks are not designed or certified to prevent the inhalation of small airborne contaminants. These particles are not visible to the naked eye but may still be capable of causing infection.
Surgical masks are not designed to seal tightly against the user’s face. During inhalation, much of the potentially contaminated air can pass through gaps between the face and the surgical mask and not be pulled through the filter material of the mask.
Their ability to filter small particles varies significantly based upon the type of material used to make the surgical mask, so they cannot be relied upon to protect workers against airborne infectious agents.
Only surgical masks that are cleared by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to be legally marketed in the United States have been tested for their ability to resist blood and body fluids.