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DOH exec: N95 mask doesn’t protect you fully, but healthy lifestyle can

/ 05:44 PM January 30, 2020

Department of Health Assistant Secretary Eric Tayag. FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines – A Department of Health (DOH) official has clarified that N95 masks cannot provide full protection against the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), as the agency puts more emphasis on pursuing a healthy lifestyle.

DOH Assistant Secretary Eric Tayag on Thursday clarified that microscopic particles of the 2019-nCoV may somehow pass through the N95 masks, although DOH previously said that the said virus may only be transferred through direct contact.

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“For our purposes, sa novel coronavirus, pwede na ‘yong occupational grade lang.  N95 kasi 95 percent ng mga mikrobyo kasing liit ng 0.3 microns ay pwede kang maproteksyunan,” Tayag explained in a radio interview with DZMM.

(For our purposes, against the novel coronavirus, we can use the occupational grade.  Because N95,  you are protected from 95 percent of the microbes as small as 0.3 microns.)

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“Kaya lang ‘yong novel coronavirus ay 0.1 (microns), mas maliit.  [But at least], mas may proteksyon ka, laban naman sa wala,” he added.

(But the novel coronavirus is 0.1 microns, so it is smaller.  But it is better that we have no protection at all.)

Tayag stressed that it is important to wash hands properly, following the “Happy Birthday” rule where the duration of the handwashing should be as long as the birthday song.

He also advised the public to check if they are wearing their N95 masks properly — which means that no air exhaled by the user should escape the mask — aside from this, he advised buyers to check if the N95 masks are legitimate and not counterfeit items.

“Tignan niyo ‘yong manufacturer, mamaya fly-by-night ‘yong mabili niyong N95, meron no’ng listahan ‘yong FDA sa Amerika,” he said.

(Look at the manufacturer’s name because the N95 mask might be from a fly-by-night company, look at the list of America’s Food and Drug Administration.)

“Ang N95 mask po natin, tandaan po natin, may oras lang na pwede siyang magamit, halimbawa pinaka-matagal na ‘yong walong oras,” he noted.  “Maganda ring malaman na ito ay sinasabit, hindi nilalagay sa bag, kasi masisira ‘yong porma.”

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(The N95 masks, let us remember, there is a limited time that you can only use the masks, the longest maybe just eight hours.  We should also know that this mask should be hanged, not placed inside bags because the masks might deform.)

However, Tayag said that there is no need to wear masks in public, as only those inside hospitals and people who are currently sick who need it.

He also insisted that the general public should be strategic, as hoarding N95 masks would leave health workers who frequent hospitals without an adequate supply.

“Ito nire-rekomenda namin sa ospital […] sa general public, ‘pag nakita namin kayong ganito, ay overkill na po ‘yan,” Tayag said. “Magkakaubusan kasi ng mask, so let’s be strategic.”

(We are only recommending this for people in hospitals, but for the general public, if we see you wearing these, that’s already overkill.  Running out of supply is possible, so let’s be strategic.)

“‘Yong may ubo’t sipon, ‘yon na lang ‘yong magma-mask, nang sa gano’n, hindi niya kinakalat ‘yon.  Ngayon ‘yong mga talagang dapat gumamit, ‘yong sa opsital, kasi dapat ‘yong doktor at nurse natin healthy, kasi kung hindi sila magma-mask at mahawa sila, sino pang gagamot sa atin?” he asked.

(Those with colds, they are the ones who should wear masks, so that they would not spread the virus.  Now, those who should really use it are people in hospitals, because our doctors and nurses should be healthy.  If they don’t wear masks and they get infected, who would treat us?)

Several Filipinos have flocked to drug stores and hardware shops in hopes of purchasing masks, but some areas in Metro Manila have already run out of supplies — especially since the masks were also required to protect people from the Taal Volcano’s ashfall.

The demand for surgical masks and N95 masks skyrocketed brought about by the 2019-nCoV scare. The virus originated from Wuhan City in mainland China. As of Thursday, more than 7,000 individuals have been infected with the virus, with at least 170 now dead.

After the DOH confirmed a 2019-nCoV case in the Philippines, the sale of masks are expected to increase.

Edited by JPV

For more news about the novel coronavirus click here.
What you need to know about Coronavirus.
For more information on COVID-19, call the DOH Hotline: (02) 86517800 local 1149/1150.

The Inquirer Foundation supports our healthcare frontliners and is still accepting cash donations to be deposited at Banco de Oro (BDO) current account #007960018860 or donate through PayMaya using this link .

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TAGS: 2019 n-CoV, 2019 Novel Coronavirus, Coronavirus, Department of Health, DoH, Eric Tayag, House of Representatives, Philippine news updates
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