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Coronavirus protection: Do N95 masks work? Should I wear a face mask amid outbreak?

The deadly coronavirus has infected more than 80,000 and killed at least 2,800 since its discovery in the Chinese city of Wuhan in late December. The coronavirus has now reached more than 60 countries, including the UK, Italy, France and Germany.

So far 19 patients in the UK have tested positive for coronavirus.

If more cases are confirmed in the UK, it will be announced as soon as possible by the Chief Medical Officer of the affected country.

The UK Chief Medical Officers have raised the risk to the public from low to moderate.

Health professionals are working to contact anyone who has been in close contact with people who have coronavirus.


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Public Health England (PHE) is working to contact anyone who has been in close contact with people who have coronavirus.

The UK government is monitoring the situation in China and around the world.

As of 27 February 2020, a total of 7,690 people have been tested with 7,675 negative results and 15 positive cases.

The patients are receiving specialist NHS care, and we are using tried and tested infection control procedures to prevent further spread of the virus.

Experts at PHE continue to work hard tracing patient contacts from the UK cases.

Do N95 masks work?

People wearing disposable face masks have become a defining image of the coronavirus outbreak.

Experts say masks can be helpful in preventing the spread of the virus, but only if worn properly and under the right conditions.

However, if it’s a regular surgical face mask, the answer is “no” Dr William Schaffner, who is an infectious-disease specialist at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee, told Live Science. 

A more specialised mask, known as an N95 respirator, can protect against the new coronavirus because it is thicker than a surgical mask.

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends any health-care workers interacting with coronavirus patients wear a stronger kind of mask.

This is known as the N95 respirator and filters out 95 percent of pollutants.

Marybeth Sexton, an assistant professor at Emory University School of Medicine told Washington Post said these masks are “highly effective”.

However, apart from people in infected areas of China, covering once’s face and nose isn’t necessary for now, according to Colleen Kraft, associate chief medical officer for Emory University Hospital.

She told the publication: “Wearing a mask walking around isn’t going to do any good, but if you’re in a situation where you’re highly exposed, a mask is helpful.

“You may wear a mask when someone is going to cough directly on you or [in] a place with a lot of ill people.

“In a hospital, we wear a mask with patients who have influenza.”

Public Health England is currently not advising people to wear face masks.

What should you do if you think you have the virus?

Anyone that has been to Wuhan in the past 14 days and has developed symptoms should phone NHS 111, Public Health England (PHE) has advised.

Symptoms include a cough, a sneeze, shortness of breath, or a fever.

People who are concerned should phone ahead before going to any medical facility and mention their recent travel to the city.

PHE also advises anyone travelling to China to maintain good hand, respiratory and personal hygiene, and avoid visiting animal and bird markets or people who are ill with respiratory symptoms.

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