Facemasks Alone no Help for Swine Flu
According to the CDC, there is no single method to protect from swine flu. Using a facemask alone is of little value for swine flu protection if other precautions are not taken, including hand-washing, avoiding crowds and limiting exposure to large groups of people.
Information about using facemasks to reduce chances of swine flu infection in community settings is limited. Currently, the CDC is basing recommendations for using facemasks as swine flu protection on their use in other settings where infection from respiratory secretions is possible.
Limiting exposure in crowds is of importance to prevent inhalation of droplets from the respiratory tract of others who might spread swine flu. Frequent and thorough hand washing, with emphasis on keeping your hands away from your nose and mouth after you have been in any crowded area can also prevent swine flu spread. For now, avoiding crowds altogether is best. If you notice anyone with a cough or sneeze, encourage him or her to seek medical care. Employers should be especially vigilant.
If you do use a facemask for swine flu protection, they must be used correctly, and in conjunction with other protective measures, again, with an emphasis on good hand washing. To prevent infection spread, always cover your nose and mouth if you sneeze or cough in order to protect others.
Using a facemask makes it more difficult to breathe. In order to protect, facemasks must fit snugly to prevent droplets from entering through the side of the mask.
The CDC says, “rather than relying on the use of facemasks or respirators, close contact with people who might be ill and being in crowded settings should be avoided.
Two instances where facemasks should definitely be used to protect from swine flu include necessary contact with someone with a respiratory infection, as might be the case with a caregiver. The CDC says facemasks should also be considered when entering a crowd is unavoidable. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration uses six feet when defining close contact with others that might spread swine flu or other infectious respiratory diseases.
The CDC defines facemasks as FDA cleared devices that include disposable surgical, dental, medical procedure, isolation, or laser masks. The CDC’s Division of the Strategic National Stockpile is sending protective facemasks, antiviral drugs, and other protective equipment to all fifty states as efforts continue to contain swine flu spread.
Facemasks alone are no guarantee for protection against swine flu if not used in conjunction with other measures.