Protective masks and surgical masks, when to use each one?

Given the current situation regarding the coronavirus and the use of personal protective equipment, they send two clear messages about the use of surgical masks and self-filtering masks against particles, used as a protection measure against this type of biological agent:

If you are healthy, wearing a surgical mask will only be necessary if you need to care for someone suspected of being infected with the novel SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. If this circumstance does not occur, you do not need to acquire or use this medical device at all. Additionally, the use of a surgical mask must be combined with other measures that we will see later.

Autofiltering anti-particle masks (FF P2 or FF P3) are only indicated by health authorities around the world only and exclusively for personnel who take clinical samples, attend investigational, probable or confirmed cases or people entering the isolation room (eg family members, cleaning staff ...). Again, if you are not in these groups, you most likely will not need to purchase or use this personal protective equipment (PPE) as a means of protection against the new SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus.

In recent weeks, we have witnessed an excessively high global increase in the demand and use of surgical masks and self-filtering masks against particles by the general population, as a measure of protection against the coronavirus. In our country, the communications from the health authorities do not indicate the use of this equipment for use by the population in order to protect themselves against contagion.

In this statement, ASEPAL intends to indicate in a simple way what surgical masks are, what protective masks are and when they should be used.

What is a surgical mask and when should I use it?

Surgical masks are medical devices used in infected patients (or suspected of being infected), and are intended to protect the dispersion of the aerosol that is generated by sneezing or coughing, the medium through which the most microbes.

Their main purpose is not to offer protection to the mask wearer, since surgical masks do not guarantee an adequate seal between the face of the user and the equipment, they do not provide significant levels of protection, since the wearer of the mask surgical mask will always be breathing a significant portion of unfiltered air.

The use of these masks is perfectly defined by the WHO on its website. In this sense, the highest international health authority clarifies the following:

The main use of surgical masks is to be placed on infected patients or suspected of being infected.

The WHO recommendation for the use of surgical masks is aimed at people who are infected and for people who enter the same room as the possible patient. For this last group of people, the use of surgical masks can offer some protection as long as the mask wearer stays approximately one meter from the person suspected of being infected, when this person, in turn, wears a surgical mask (minimizing thus the spread of the virus) and as long as the patient is not undergoing medical treatments that can generate aerosols of contaminated fluids.

Information in this regard can be expanded on the WHO website: https://www.who.int/news-room/q-a-detail/q-a-coronaviruses

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