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Sunday, August 23, 2009

Face Mask : To Wear Or Not To Wear

Ever since the outbreak of Infurenza A (H1N1) people using face mask has been a normal practice. However there are still majority of them who are not wearing them despite the number of death in Malaysia escalated . Berita Minggu today frontpaged picture of Tun Dr Mahathir wearing the face mask while shopping for 'buka puasa' cuisine at Kampung Baru Bazar Ramadhan. Following the picture Tun advises "Pakai topeng mulut dan tutup hidung". So this means and advice to the public. Why there still many people who do not wear the face mask? Are they not afraid of being infected and not scared at all with the spread of the virus?

My view is that whether wearing the face mask or not will not stop the spread of the virus. It is awareness that must be put into place. The public need to know very well the characteristics of the virus. The how and why it can spread. Campaigning to wear face mask will just increase sales of mask and profit certain quaters. That lead to the government setting the ceiling price of face mask. This leads to home made face mask being worn.

I think the Health Ministry must carry out more than just wearing mask and washing hands campaign (leading to increase sales of hand sanitizers) but also to educate the public about the virus Influenza A (H1N1). The more the public understand about the virus, the more safety precaution they can take. I once read that the virus is not airborne and if it is not airborne, then wearing the wearing the mask alone is not a successful preventive measure. Read also Advice onuse of mask in the community setting in Influenza A (H1N1) outbreaks

I read the FAQ at WHO website the answer to this question:
" How do people become infected with the virus?"

The answer is:

The virus is spread from person-to-person. It is transmitted as easily as the normal seasonal flu and can be passed to other people by exposure to infected droplets expelled by coughing or sneezing that can be inhaled, or that can contaminate hands or surfaces.

To prevent spread, people who are ill should cover their mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing, stay home when they are unwell, clean their hands regularly, and keep some distance from healthy people, as much as possible.

If one wears a mask but never take precaution with what they touched and immediately put thei hands on their face, still the virus can spread.

I copied this from the WHO website:

What about using a mask? What does WHO recommend?

If you are not sick you do not have to wear a mask.

If you are caring for a sick person, you can wear a mask when you are in close contact with the ill person and dispose of it immediately after contact, and cleanse your hands thoroughly afterwards.

Using a mask correctly in all situations is essential. Incorrect use actually increases the chance of spreading infection.

So do you still need to wear the face mask?

How To Protect Yourself?

WHO advises this,

What can I do to protect myself from catching influenza A(H1N1)?

The main route of transmission of the new influenza A(H1N1) virus seems to be similar to seasonal influenza, via droplets that are expelled by speaking, sneezing or coughing. You can prevent getting infected by avoiding close contact with people who show influenza-like symptoms (trying to maintain a distance of about 1 metre if possible) and taking the following measures:

  • avoid touching your mouth and nose;
  • clean hands thoroughly with soap and water, or cleanse them with an alcohol-based hand rub on a regular basis (especially if touching the mouth and nose, or surfaces that are potentially contaminated);
  • avoid close contact with people who might be ill;
  • reduce the time spent in crowded settings if possible;
  • improve airflow in your living space by opening windows;
  • practise good health habits including adequate sleep, eating nutritious food, and keeping physically active.

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