Australia

Concerns face masks may be ineffective at stopping coronavirus spread

An attendee of the Comic Exhibition in Taipei in Taiwan wears a face mask. Source: AAP

Health experts advise that wearing medical face masks is not the most effective way to prevent coronavirus infection.

As the coronavirus crisis has infected over 14,000 people globally, the use of face masks has become part of daily life in Australian cities and other parts of the world.

Its effectiveness in preventing the spread of the virus, however, has been questioned by health experts.

Officials in China have required that people wear face masks when they go out in public places to prevent the spread of infection.

But a report by Work Safety claims the best preventive measures out of the outbreak epicentre are washing hands and covering coughs.

Just as it happened with the use of face masks to prevent air pollution from the bushfires, surgical masks are not fitted to stop inhaling smaller airborne particles that might carry the virus.

For that reason, the report claims, respirators offer more protection although they can make it more difficult for a person to breathe.

Surgical masks

* Are the kind worn by surgeons during operations.

* Protect the wearer against large droplets or splashes of bodily and infected fluids from others.

* Do not prevent a person from inhaling smaller airborne particles.

* Are loose-fitting and when the wearer inhales, there is potential for particles to leak in or out of the sides.

* Are not considered 'respiratory protection'.

Respirators

* Are designed to prevent most small particles from entering the nose and mouth area.

* Recommended for healthcare professionals treating patients infected by coronavirus.

* Can make it more difficult for a person to breathe.

* Only work if they fit properly and aren't suitable for children or people with facial hair.

Stay up to date with SBS NEWS

  • App
  • Subscribe
  • Follow
  • Listen
  • Watch