Masks not effective if you’re not sick, according to Public Health Agency of Canada

Mercedes Leyh / January 23, 2020

Residents in BC are paranoid of a coronavirus outbreak in Canada after the first case in the U.S. was confirmed.
( Shibuya246/ Flickr)

Face masks are flying off the shelves in Canada after news broke of the first coronavirus case hitting Washington State in the U.S. Multiple pharmacies have sold out since January 22. However, public health officials still say that the probability of the virus spreading in Canada is low. Chief Public Health Officer, Theresa Tam said that wearing masks when you are well is not an effective measure.

“Sometimes it can actually present risks as you are putting your fingers up and down your face when removing your mask and putting them near your eyes.” -Theresa Tam, Chief Public Health Officer

According to SFU Health Sciences Professor, Kelly Lee there are many types of masks with different levels of filtration and coverage. There is everything from disposable surgical masks to full blown respirators. Lee said that most viruses are transmitted through air. Disposable masks have no air filter and respirators are generally reserved for hospital use.

“If you want to wear a mask, to prevent being infected or infecting others, make sure that you wear it properly, firmly over the mouth, nose and chin. Wear them when you are in crowded places or around infectious people, change them regularly, and most importantly practice proper hygiene practices.” -Kelly Lee, SFU Health Sciences Professor

The World Health Organization hasn’t labelled the outbreak as a public health emergency yet. Tam said that there is no need for Canadians to panic and that they are not recommending anyone wear a mask when going about their regular daily activities.

“There is one specific scenario where you may want to put a mask on and that is for someone who is actually sick. For example, as you are entering the health system.” -Theresa Tam, Chief Public Health Officer

The fast spreading virus has killed 17 people and infected over 600. Several cities in China have been put into lockdown ahead of the Lunar New Year.

Canada recently added extra precautions to its international airports. Those experiencing flu like symptoms will be redirected for extra screening.

The World Health Organization released recommendations for how people can protect themselves against the coronavirus.
(Matthew Fraser/BCIT News)