An epidemiologist has warned those wearing masks amid the coronavirus pandemic to avoid a common mistake that can unknowingly spread the virus.
Infection preventionist Sarah Milligan of Texas shared several images to Twitter on Thursday which revealed the spread of germs when masks are moved up and down users’ faces.
While she views masks as “completely ineffective” of preventing transmission, she said if a mask is worn it is vital it remains worn properly and undisturbed.
Ms Milligan said if the wearer needs to remove it, the whole mask needs to be carefully removed and not moved to another part of the face such as under the chin.
One of the ultraviolet light images she shared shows how germs are dragged from the outside of the mask onto the neck area.
“When you put a dirty mask under your nose or chin you may end up contaminating yourself,” she explained.
“Keeping it on will reduce the risk of self-contamination, but if it’s too uncomfortable just remove it completely and make sure to perform hand hygiene before and after,” she said.
She explained many people will drag the mask’s outer layer along their chin as they move it downwards, sometimes even twisting it around.
Associate Professor Ben Mullins at Curtin University’s School of Public Health, who is an aerosol deposition expert, previously told Yahoo News Australia that if a mask is worn for a prolonged period of time where the virus is present, the mask itself can become a hazard.
— Sarah Milligan (@SarahMPHCIC) May 13, 2020
“Wearing them for too long, as they’re supposed to be disposable, they could actually become a vector for disease if someone is exposed to infected patients,” he explained.
Prof Mullins said the use of masks offered “almost zero protection” to the general public, suggesting it may only prevent people from directly touching their face with their hands.
Yet Duncan Fullerton, a respiratory consultant with the NHS, took to Ms Milligan’s post and explained that if that mask is then misused, it is putting the wearer at risk.
Protection to [the] wearer is minimal and as you correctly highlight may put [the] wearer at [a] greater risk if they touch their face more,” he said.
Ms Milligan’s post has since been retweeted over 4,500 times.
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