Online Originals: How effective are face masks at preventing ailment?


GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT)- With the Coronavirus spreading around the world and flu season in full swing, health is a major concern.

Many people are using face masks as preventative measures to dodge ailment. But, that may not be the best way to do it!

The CDC does not recommend the use of face masks to prevent the Coronavirus at this time in the United States, due to the low numbers of those effected.

If you or someone you know has the flu or flu like symptoms, the use of the masks are limited to whether you are indoors out out. Here’s why:

Influenza (Flu):

If you or someone you know has the flu you should actively be washing your hands.

When you are outdoors in the community, face masks are ineffective. They are meant to block water droplets that are spread in close quarters, like those transmitted through coughing or sneezing.

“For general purposes out in the community, this [face masks] is a waste of money and a waste of time,” said Dr. Paul Cook, Chief of Infectious Disease at ECU’s Brody School of Medicine.

When you are in large spaces, droplets that are spread through coughing or sneezing will disperse into the atmosphere, for most situations.

Dr. Cook explained that they use face masks in the hospital setting. It is a closed environment where germs are concentrating.

Therefore, if you are in small rooms, close to people around you with an illness, the use of face masks will be effective.

Experts say washing your hands and covering your mouth when you cough is the greatest way to prevent illness.


The CDC does not recommend the use of face masks at this time in the United States to prevent the Coronavirus. The illness is not a major threat to the general population. Therefore, using the face masks will only protect you from common colds or flu-like illnesses.

Should you become ill with the Coronavirus, you should contact health officials immediately.

Those who are effected or in contact with the virus are advised to use a different type of face mask.

There are two types of face masks used to prevent illness:

  1. General antiviral face masks (those used in hospitals)- are loose fitting and allow general air particles in
  2. N95 Respirators- a tight-fitting protective device worn around the face that protect you from 95% of tiny particles

N95 Respirators are the most effective, however are not 100% preventative from ailment.

Here in the East, many stores are sold out of face masks, leaving customers concerned.

“I would not worry, because I don’t think they are doing much. For most situations, you do not need a mask,” said Dr. Cook.

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