WHO considers changing guidance on wearing face masks
April 3, 2020 - The World Health Organisation is considering whether to update its guidance on the routine wearing of face masks in public in order to prevent the spread of coronavirus disease (Covid-19).
A panel of advisers to the WHO will weigh up new research which suggests that coughs and sneezes may project virus particles much further into the air than previously thought – 6m for a cough and up to 8m for a sneeze, the BBC said.
The WHO currently recommends keeping at least 1m from anyone coughing or sneezing.
It says that healthy people only need to wear masks if they are caring for others suspected of being infected or if they themselves are coughing or sneezing.
It also emphasises that masks are only effective if combined with frequent hand-washing and used and disposed of properly.
Coronavirus disease is spread by droplets that can spray into the air when infected people talk, cough and sneeze. These can enter the body through the nose, mouth and eyes, either directly or after touching a contaminated object. But the spread of these droplets may be curtailed if infected people wear masks.
The U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is also looking at whether to change its position on the use of masks, which at the moment are not recommended for healthy people.
The advice being considered calls for the use of simple cloth face coverings, leaving urgently-needed medical masks – including surgical and N95 masks – free for healthcare workers, according to a Washington Post report.
Mask-wearing has long been common in some countries during respiratory outbreaks, especially in parts of Asia. As questions grow about whether people sometimes can spread the virus before realising they are sick, more and more health officials appear to be coming around to the idea of masks for the general public.
- Coronavirus: Expert panel to assess face mask use by public (BBC)
- CDC considering recommending general public wear face coverings in public (Washington Post)
- When and how to use masks (WHO)
- Frequently asked questions about personal protective equipment (CDC)
- Coronavirus: Who needs masks or other protective gear? (BBC)
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