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Coronavirus protection: Do N95 masks work? Should I wear a face mask amid outbreak?

The deadly coronavirus has infected more than 1,300 and killed at least 41 since its discovery in the Chinese city of Wuhan in late December. So far, tests in the UK on 31 people have come back negative, but the Chief Medical Officer for England said there was a “fair chance” the UK would see a case.

Officials are still trying to trace around 2,000 people who have flown in to the UK from Wuhan in the past two weeks.

In its daily advisory the Department of Health said: “As of January 25, a total of 31 UK tests have concluded, of which 31 were confirmed negative and zero positive.

“There are currently no confirmed cases in the UK or of UK citizens abroad, and the risk to the public is low.

“The Government is monitoring the situation closely and will continue to work with the World Health Organization (WHO) and international community.


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“The Government’s approach is guided by the advice of the Chief Medical Officer.

“If and when a first case in the UK is confirmed, it will be announced as soon as possible by the Chief Medical Officer of the affected country.

“This will be followed by a statement by England’s Chief Medical Officer, Professor Chris Whitty.”

The virus has so far spread to 10 countries outside of China, including France, the US and Australia.

Do N95 masks work?

People wearing disposable face masks have become a defining image of the coronavirus outbreak.

Experts say masks can be helpful in preventing the spread of the virus, but only if worn properly and under the right conditions.

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends any health-care workers interacting with coronavirus patients wear a stronger kind of mask.

This is known as the N95 respirator and filters out 95 percent of pollutants.

Marybeth Sexton, an assistant professor at Emory University School of Medicine told Washington Post said these masks are “highly effective”.

However, apart from people in infected areas of China, covering once’s face and nose isn’t necessary for now, according to Colleen Kraft, associate chief medical officer for Emory University Hospital.

She told the publication: “Wearing a mask walking around isn’t going to do any good, but if you’re in a situation where you’re highly exposed, a mask is helpful.

“You may wear a mask when someone is going to cough directly on you or [in] a place with a lot of ill people.

“In a hospital, we wear a mask with patients who have influenza.”

Public Health England is currently not advising people to wear face masks.

What should you do if you think you have the virus?

Anyone that has been to Wuhan in the past 14 days and has developed symptoms should phone NHS 111, Public Health England (PHE) has advised.

Symptoms include a cough, a sneeze, shortness of breath, or a fever.

People who are concerned should phone ahead before going to any medical facility and mention their recent travel to the city.

PHE also advises anyone travelling to China to maintain good hand, respiratory and personal hygiene, and avoid visiting animal and bird markets or people who are ill with respiratory symptoms.

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