Put on 3-ply face masks if you must, says expert

Chan Kok Leong Lee Chi Leong

People in Bukit Bintang wearing face masks after the coronavirus outbreak. Experts have advised to use three-ply masks instead of single-ply ones. – The Malaysian Insight pic by Hasnoor Hussain, January 30, 2020.

STICK to three-ply face masks if you must use one to prevent being infected by novel coronavirus (nCoV19), said an infectious disease expert.

The single-ply face masks are very thin while the N95 face masks are too technical to use, said Sg Buloh Hospital’s Dr Benedict Sim.

“The single-ply doesn’t help to protect against germs because it gets moist very quickly and doesn’t have any filters.

“The choice for the public is the three-ply surgical mask. But it cannot be used throughout the day as it will also get moist and contaminated. You need to change it every few hours,” said Sim at the Health Ministry in Putrajaya today.

He said the N95 masks are unnecessary as nCoV is being spread via droplets.

“The N95 masks are only useful if the virus is airborne. But the N95 needs to fit the facial contours of the wearer and be worn properly.

“Because of the technical challenges, it is not necessary at this stage.”

Sim said there is also no necessity for Malaysians to use the face masks for their day-to-day routines although that can change depending on how the outbreak continues.

“There are no local human-to-human transmission among Malaysians as yet. That is why we are not recommending the population to use the masks routinely.

“This, however, can change as the outbreak progresses.

“If there is a human-to-human transmission among Malaysians and the general public, we will advise accordingly.”

“At the moment, the advice is only necessary if you are visiting China, which is the epicentre of the outbreak.”

Sim was among five other experts who gave a media briefing on the steps that were being taken in Malaysia to contain the outbreak.

Besides Sim, the briefing also had Dr Sarah Shaikh Abdul Karim (emergency medical services), Dr Azmi Abdul Rahim (public healthcare and disease control), Dr Nor Zaharin Hasran (laboratory testing) and Crisis Preparedness and Response Centre‘s Dr Mahesh Appanan.

Sarah and Azmi explained the various steps taken during the transfers and detection of patients-under-investigation while Zaharin gave a briefing of how samples were being tested at the laboratories.

Meanwhile, Mahesh briefed the media on CPRC’s role in coordinating the various ministries and reporting procedures. – January 30, 2020.

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