How effective are surgical masks against viruses?

Local

Worries about the flu and the coronavirus can cause Tri-Staters to look for ways to keep themselves from getting sick. One method is buying and wearing surgical masks.

Shortages are reported in other parts of the country. But how effective are they in keeping people from getting sick?

Every flu season, Jeff Danhauer of Danhauer Drug Store in Owensboro sees more people buying these surgical masks.

“Most of the time it is to protect other family members, or as a precaution to themselves. People who are prone to catching flu, they still need to go out in the public, so they need to take that extra precaution,” he says.

His store isn’t seeing a shortage, since the flu isn’t hitting owensboro as much as other nearby communities.

“We’re kind of on the verge of getting a spike, but not excessively right now,” Danhauer says.

Dr. Bailey Phelps of Ohio County Family Care says surgical masks can help someone already sick stop others from getting their germs, but they don’t do much in preventing illnesses.

“If you have symptoms, meaning if you come in with a cough, cold symptoms, a fever, feeling like you have the flu virus, then it is helpful not to pass that in the short term. But as far as you and I walking around, wearing a mask the whole time, no that’s not a very effective measure,” she explained.

While people buy surgical masks as one way to keep the flu and other viruses away from them, doctors and pharmacists say it shouldn’t be the only thing they do.’

“Staying away from other people that are ill. If you’re sick, you shouldn’t be out and about,” says Dr. Phelps.

“It is still important to do what our grandmothers tell us, wash your hands, soap and water,” Danhauer adds.

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(This story was originally published on January 30, 2020)

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