Face masks offer little protection

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CINCINNATI, Ohio — As a new virus attacks the human population, people are reaching for face masks. Some stores across the nation are selling out.

But infectious-disease experts say a face mask can only offer slight protection against airborne illness. A more effective defense against a virus is washing your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water after using the restroom and before eating.

“The regular surgical masks that you might buy at the drug store probably are effective for half an hour, and after that, they become wet from your breath, then they’re much less effective,” said Dr. Stephen Blatt, medical director for infectious diseases at TriHealth. “The longer you wear them, the less effective they become.”

Dr. Senu Apewokin, an infectious-disease specialist at UC Health, said that while face masks can provide a temporary barrier against viruses, “we worry more about influenza than the coronavirus. The things we would do to prevent against the coronavirus are the very things we would do against influenza, washing hands, using alcohol-based hand sanitizers, avoid others who are ill, if you are sick, stay home.”

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