SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) – The coronavirus outbreak continues to grow, with more than 130 people dead and thousands more sick.
In Wuhan, China, where the novel virus originated, wearing face masks is mandatory.
In the United States, there are 5 confirmed cases, none of which are in the Bay Area.
In Texas where a recent coronavirus scare prompted panic, medical supply stores in and around the Brazos Valley where Texas A&M University is located started experiencing a medical mask shortage.
But do the masks help?
Infectious disease expert Dr. Charles Chiu told CNN for those of us in the U.S., there is no need to wear surgical masks, or the N-95 respirators physicians wear when treating viruses.
At this time the CDC has not recommended Americans wear masks in public.
“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.”
There are two types of face masks that Americans are apparently buying right now – surgical masks and N-95 respirators – both of which the CDC does not recommend you wear at this time.
Medical experts say while surgical masks do protect from large respiratory droplets, such as a spray from a sneeze or cough, they won’t prevent against airborne droplets and do not filter smaller particles.
When it comes to N-95 respirators, these are recommended for healthcare providers who are treating patients infected with the coronavirus. Those with medical training are regularly fitted for these types of respirators and know how to wear them to make sure there’s no open space and to make sure these masks fit correctly.
These masks could also be uncomfortable if worn for long periods of time.
The CDC recommends those in the U.S. avoid contact with those who are sick, stay home from work if sick, and remember to thoroughly wash hands with soap.
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