NMDOH, CDC advise general public against using facemasks to prevent coronavirus


In this Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2020, combination of photos, people wear various masks as they wait at immigration counter at Kuala Lumpur Low Cost Terminal in Sepang, Malaysia. Face masks are in short supply in parts of the world as people try to stop the spread of a new virus from China. Health officials recommend strap-on medical masks for people being evaluated for the new virus, their household members and caregivers. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)

SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – As the New Mexico Department of Health continues to monitor the outbreak of the novel coronavirus in China and around the world, the department is advising the public not to use facemasks as a form of prevention. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has released new information regarding the use of personal protective equipment that includes masks and respirators.

There is currently an increase in demand for the products due to the outbreak and a decrease in these exports from China and India. While there are plans to increase the manufacturing of personal protective equipment, the CDC has made recommendations in order to prevent the novel coronavirus:

  • The general public is advised to not use facemasks and instead use everyday preventions such as washing your hands, staying home when sick, and covering your coughs
  • Healthcare workers should wear personal protective equipment when treating and caring for novel coronavirus patients and should be trained and fit-tested for N95 respirators
  • Patients who are suspected or confirmed of novel coronavirus infection should wear a facemask when seeking healthcare or when around people

NMDOH reports that the risk of exposure with travel to any county besides China is low. The department is asking all individuals who are returning from China to call their 24/7 Epidemiology Hotline at 505-827-0006 for information on how to protect yourself and the community from the virus even if you are not ill.

Healthcare providers are also encouraged to be highly proactive and vigilant regarding the virus especially with travelers who are returning from China and that have a fever and symptoms such as shortness of breath and coughing.

“It’s important to note that there are currently no cases detected in New Mexico and there is no need for the general public to use facemasks to prevent novel coronavirus infection,” said NMDOH Secretary Kathy Kunkel in a press release.

China has reported more than 40,000 confirmed cases of the virus and it has also been identified in 24 countries including 15 cases in the United States. Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses. The viruses can cause some respiratory illnesses in people and others can be spread among animals such as camels, civet cats, and bats.

NMDOH reports that early cases are believed to have spread from animal-to-person through some person-to-person spread is occurring in China. In the United States, person-to-person transmission has occurred in spouses of two known cases who traveled to China.

It remains unknown how easily the virus can spread among people.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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