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Wearing a face mask won’t protect you from coronavirus, CDC says

U.S. companies are selling massive quantities of face masks, but the CDC says they’re not necessary or fail-proof.

Women wear masks as they walk along a street on a polluted day in Beijing, Sunday, Dec. 13, 2015.
Women wear masks as they walk along a street on a polluted day in Beijing, Sunday, Dec. 13, 2015.
Andy Wong, Associated Press

When a possible case of the infamous coronavirus was reported at Texas A&M University, stores in the area quickly sold out of surgical masks, KTBX reported.

According to CNN, stores across the country are selling out of surgical masks and even N95 respirators, the masks that doctors wear when treated infectious diseases.

But while CNN reports face masks are now mandatory accessories in Wuhan, China, where the virus started, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says even those who diligently wear surgical masks aren’t fully protected.

According to the CDC, while a surgical mask protects from large air droplets, like those released when someone sneezes or coughs, smaller airborne particles can be inhaled through the mask and the openings on the side, as it is not airtight.

“Right now, there’s no evidence that (wearing face masks) is going to help prevent that infection,” Dr. Charles Chiu, a professor of medicine at University of California San Fransisco and an infectious disease expert, told CNN. “I would not recommend that someone in the U.S. who does not have direct exposure, did not recently travel to China ... go buy a face mask.”

N95 respirators are the most effective option, the CDC reports, as they fit users tightly and filter out 95% of all airborne particles, large or small.

Another issue with wearing face masks, CNN reports, is that they could easily lull users into a false sense of security, making them think they don’t have to be as diligent with the CDC’s recommended “common sense measures.”

The CDC has not advised any Americans to wear surgical masks or N95 respirators unless they are in close contact with someone who has been confirmed to carry the coronavirus.

Currently, the CDC is recommending Americans take caution by washing their hands frequently, avoiding contact with people who are sick, staying home when not feeling well, disinfecting high-traffic surfaces and avoiding touching facial orifices with unwashed hands.

The U.S. State Department has asked Americans to avoid travel to Wuhan, China.

After a recently confirmed case of the coronavirus in Arizona, Utah health officials are on high alert, but residents should be comforted by the fact Salt Lake City International Airport does not have nonstop flights to China, which significantly decreases the risk of the coronavirus entering the state, Deseret News reports.