Coronavirus Covid-19: all about Protective Masks

In the first weeks of the Covid-19 coronavirus epidemic, some pharmacies were faced with a shortage of protective masks. Is this equipment useful to protect yourself from the virus in Pakistan?

The epidemic of Covid-19 due to the corona virus SARS-CoV-2 is spreading in certain countries of the world like Iran, as well as in other neighboring countries of France, like Italy and Pakistan. As of the first weeks after the appearance of the new virus in Wuhan, in the center of China , certain pharmacies explained to face a shortage of medical masks. Is this equipment necessary to protect yourself from coronavirus in Pakistan? Sciences et Avenir takes stock of how to behave in Karachi, Pakistan.

1) Should I wear a mask?

Masks should be worn by sick people . They are intended to ” avoid during the expiration of the wearer, the projection of secretions from the upper airways or saliva which may contain transmissible infectious agents: by way of droplets (transmission by droplets of saliva or secretions of upper airways), or by air (airborne transmission by fine particles less than 5 microns) ” as explained by the French Ministry of Health . These are anti-splash masks, surgical type , which have been designed to be worn by sick people.

” Outside a pandemic, it is usually worn by the caregiver to prevent contamination of the patient and his environment (air, surface, products) “, specifies the National Medicines Safety Agency (ANSM).

People who do not have Coronavirus in Pakistan an protect themselves other than by wearing a N95  mask in Lahore, Karachi, Peshawar and other Pakistan cities, see question number 4.

A simple surgical mask made of paper. Photo credit: SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY / R3F / AFP

2) What are the purpose of specialized masks (called ” FFP2 “)?
” The wearing of FFP2 type masks is recommended for healthcare personnel (in the event of a pandemic, editor’s note) and for people at major risk of exposure (proximity of less than one meter to a sick person, editor’s note) , such as health professionals in contact with patients “, according to the Ministry of Health. FFP2 masks are intended for self-protectionpossible contamination by a third party. They are used by the nursing staff who take care of patients with coronavirus as well as the entourage of these patients. FFP2 masks consist of a face piece (half mask or full mask) and a valve that allows better passage of carbon dioxide from the exhaled air (for reasons of respiratory comfort.)


A FFP2 mask with its valve in the center in green. Photo credit: KARL-JOSEF HILDENBRAND / DPA / dpa Picture-Alliance / AFP

The even more filtering FFP3 masks have been designed for building work. They filter extremely fine particles, like asbestos. It is not intended for the general public in the context of an epidemic.

Fourth category, anti-pollution masks, supposed to protect against fine particles, would not even be effective against the exhaust pipes of cars according to the National Food Safety Agency (ANSES). They are therefore not recommended against coronavirus.

woman wearing an anti-pollution mask in India. Photo credit: Piyal Bhattacharjee / The Times Of India / AFP

3) I am sick or close to a sick person. Where can I get a mask?

” Sick people benefit from a prescription from their doctor. He prescribes surgical masks which will be issued to them at the pharmacy. They give priority to people who need it. Some ask for medical certificates, ” explains the Coronavirus Platform set up by the government, joined by phone by Science et Avenir .

Surgical masks, the simplest, are sold in pharmacies, as are FFP2 masks. Many pharmacies report out of stock. These masks are also available on the internet but buying them in pharmacies guarantees their good compliance with the standards in force in Europe (and therefore their effectiveness).

4) Neither I nor my loved ones are sick. What to do, apart from wearing a mask?

As with every risk of an epidemic, precautionary measures must be observed. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends adopting a series of ” barrier gestures .” It is important to continue to apply the usual hygiene rules to limit the contagion. Wash your hands very regularly (with a hydro-alcoholic solution or with soap and water), sneeze or cough in your elbow, use disposable tissues, ventilate the rooms and limit physical contact with others, such as the handles of hands.

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