As a pharmacist you are often in contact with people who are unwell, common symptoms of those that you will come into contact with include a runny nose, a cough and a high temperature. These symptoms are also associated with the coronavirus but they are more likely to be symptoms of the common cold or flu. A question that was raised at a recent event we attended was, ‘should pharmacists wear facemasks to help prevent them from picking up viruses?’
With this in mind, we have decided to look in to face masks and see how useful they are in protecting against viruses.
Can wearing a medical face mask protect you against the new coronavirus?
There is no short answer to this question, it really depends on the type of mask you wear. If you purchase and wear a regular lightweight surgical mask the the answer is no. The thinner surgical masks are great for protecting doctors and surgeons against pathogens and they even help in polluted environments but these masks won’t help to protect against a virus according to Schaffner (Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious-disease specialist at Vanderbilt University)
A more specialized mask, known as an N95 respirator, can protect against the new coronavirus, also called 2019-nCoV. The respirator is thicker than a surgical mask, but it is not recommended for public use, at least not at this point.
This is because wearing these types of masks for a long time can be uncomfortable and have a detrimental impact on oxygen intake.
Wearing a thin surgical mask is a good idea if you have a cold or are coughing as it helps not to spread the virus.
Should pharmacists wear face masks?
While face masks could give pharmacists peace of mind they may cause unnecessary uneasiness among patients and customers, after all there are only 2 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK (Monday 3rd February).
The best advice for reducing the spread of viruses and infections remains the same; Wash hands thoroughly, avoid touching your eyes, mouth and nose and where possible avoid close contact with people who are ill.
We want to know, would you wear a facemask if it was provided? Please let us know.