The use of personal protective equipment is accepted for the high-risk environment of theatre, intensive care unit and on some hospital wards. But the role of the face mask is controversial in the community setting.

Should general practitioners wear face masks?

Should patients at high risk of serious outcomes from infection with COVID 19 wear a face mask?

Is it necessary for the general population to wear a face-mask?

In this month’s episode, we look at these questions with Drs Taras Mikulin and Sara Fergusson.

Listen to the discussion here: (11 min 20 sec)

Controlling the COVID 19 pandemic relies on every barrier technique being instituted:

  • Careful hand hygiene
  • Avoiding facial contact
  • Cleaning of surfaces
  • Wearing a correctly fitting face mask 
  • Maintaining social distancing
  • Contact tracing
  • Isolation of infected and potentially infected individuals

Knowledge about COVID 19 is rapidly increasing and changes to protective measures are also changing. Face mask use, even cloth face mask use is recommended in high prevalence, risky community settings. But, the public needs training if face masks are to be useful. 

The face mask is not a panacea on its own and has to be part of an overall risk-minimisation program which includes hand-washing.

In the meantime… Stay safe!

References:

  1. Effectiveness of facemasks to reduce exposure hazards for airborne infections among general populations. Lai et al. J. R. Soc. Interface (2012) 9, 938–948 doi:10.1098/rsif.2011.0537.
  2. Testing the Efficacy of Homemade Masks: Would They Protect in an Influenza Pandemic? Davies et al. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/dmp.2013.43 Published online by Cambridge University Press: 22 May 2013
  3. A Cluster Randomised Trial of Cloth Masks Compared With Medical Masks in Healthcare Workers. MacIntyre et al.  BMJ Open 2015 Apr 22;5(4):e006577. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2014-006577.
  4. COVID-19: Why we should all wear masks – there is new scientific rationale. Sui Huang; Medium, Coronavirus March 27 2020
  5. Face masks against COVID-19: An evidence review Howard et al. Preprints 2020, 2020040203 (doi: 10.20944/preprints202004.0203.v1).  April 12 2020
  6. Wearing face masks in the community during the COVID-19 pandemic: altruism and solidarity.  Cheng K, Lam T, Leung C. The Lancet Published:April 16, 2020DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(20)30918-1
  7. Physical distancing, face masks, and eye protection to prevent person-to-person transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Derek K Chu, et al. The Lancet Published:June 01, 2020 DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(20)31142-9