Face masks could protect people from coronavirus, according to UEA professor
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Wearing face masks in public could help protect people from the coronavirus, according to new research from experts at the University of East Anglia (UEA).
While there has been much debate over the effectiveness of wearing face masks while out shopping or using public transport, researchers at the university have found that donning the protective masks can reduce the spread of illnesses.
They said there is enough evidence to support vulnerable people wearing them in higher risk situations, such as in healthcare settings or on public transport, but that it isn’t strong enough to recommend the widespread use of masks among the public.
Study author Professor Paul Hunter, an expert in infectious diseases from UEA’s Norwich Medical School, said: “There has been a lot of debate about whether wearing a face-mask could help protect people from Covid-19 and reduce the spread of the disease.
“We wanted to evaluate all the available evidence to see what the best advice for people is.
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“We studied when respiratory symptoms appeared that were similar to Covid-19 – fever and cough or sore throat. But it’s important to remember that we have not been able to look specifically at Covid-19 because there have been no specific studies to date.”
Researchers found 31 studies that analysed the benefits of face masks – whether wearing them stops people getting symptoms – and found they were protective more often than not.
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Lead researcher Dr Julii Brainard, also from UEA’s Norwich Medical School, said: “We found that using a face mask and other face coverings had a consistent but small protective effect against influenza-type symptoms while people are out and about in the community.
“People who wore masks, usually surgical grade, were less likely to get respiratory symptoms from casual exposure in the community. Something like a sneeze or cough near you would become less likely to cause infection. It’s a small reduction in risk, but might be very important to especially vulnerable people.
“Overall, we found that the evidence was too uncertain to support the widespread use of facemasks as a protective measure against Covid-19. However there is enough evidence to endorse the use of facemasks for short periods of time by vulnerable individuals when in transient higher risk situations.”