Coronavirus: masks and other means of protection

Wearing a mask is essential for people with coronavirus. But faced with the epidemic, should we wear it? While it can be recommended in heavily affected areas, it is neither useful nor effective for the rest of the population, according to health authorities. What then are the effective means of protection? Doctissimo takes stock. 

Summary

  1. The coronavirus: what is it?
  2. What is the mode of contamination?
  3. Is wearing a mask really useful?
  4. Other means of protection

The coronavirus: what is it?

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses , which cause illnesses ranging from a simple cold to more severe conditions such as the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) coronavirus or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

The one identified in China is a new coronavirus, named 2019-nCoV . It emerged in December 2019, in the eastern city of Wuhan , and has since affected nearly 10,000 people (whose infection is confirmed).

As of January 31, 2020, 213 deaths have been recorded in China, including 38 in 24 hours, which corresponds to the largest progression of the virus.

What is the mode of contamination?

The disease is transmitted through postillions (sneezing, coughing, etc.). The Ministry of Solidarity and Health considers to date that close contact is necessary for the transmission of the virus. Is considered as such a direct or indirect contact, face to face, less than one meter from the sick person at the time of a cough, sneeze or a discussion in the absence of protection. It is therefore not dangerous to meet someone on the street. To date, contagiousness during the incubation period has not been proven (it would be around 5.2 days on average, but could vary greatly depending on the patient).

Is wearing a mask really useful?

In France,  6 proven cases were identified at the end of January by the Ministry of Solidarity and Health. For fear of contamination, the French have rushed into pharmacies trying to meet an increased demand for protective mask. But are they really effective?

” The wearing of this type of mask by the non-sick population in order to avoid catching the disease is not part of the recommended barrier measures and its effectiveness has not been demonstrated, ” said the services of the ministry.

In fact, wearing a mask is  useful not to spread the disease through the postilions (coughing, sneezing), but not to avoid catching it .

In addition, in the event of prolonged contact with a contaminated person, these paper masks do not offer sufficiently effective protection , in particular because they allow unfiltered air to pass.

There are then “respiratory protection” masks (type FFP2) , equipped with a device for filtering dust and pathogens. They are indicated for ” people in contact with sick people, to avoid contaminating nurses or doctors who care for them, ” noted Agnès Buzyn, Minister of Solidarity and Health. Gloves and protective glasses are also provided for the latter.

Other means of protection

To protect yourself from the virus,  traditional “barrier gestures” are essential:

  • Wash your hands regularlywith soap and water or, if necessary, an alcoholic gel;
  • Cough in his elbow;
  • Use disposable tissues.

Regarding people traveling to areas affected by the virus, the ministry recommends avoiding:

  • Any contact with animals, living or dead;
  • To go to the markets where live or dead animals are sold;
  • Any close contact with people suffering from acute respiratory infection;
  • Uncooked or undercooked meat.

Again, it is important to wash your hands regularly. It is also advisable to  consult the travel advice site of the Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs .

When returning from a trip to China , people with symptoms of a respiratory infection should contact the SAMU but avoid going to the emergency room or their doctor to limit the risk of contamination.

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