13 August 2020
The Government has updated its advice on the use of face masks and face coverings during COVID-19. We spoke with Dr Mark O’Carroll, Auckland Respiratory Specialist and a member of our Clinical Advisory Panel for his recommendations for people with CF in New Zealand.
Many places in the world are recommending widespread mask use (using any form of face covering) because of the recognised high rate of asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic infection with COVID-19 and the inability to maintain social distancing in various environments.
People can be infected with the virus, and potentially transmit it to others, before they become sick and sometimes they may never develop symptoms.
For this reason, a mask protects other people from the person wearing the mask. Any sort of mask will help reduce an infected person spreading the virus to other people. However, we don’t know scientifically to what extent.
On the other hand, if you’re wearing a mask to protect yourself, surgical masks like the ones most CF centres give to patients offer the best protection. There’s good evidence they protect the person wearing the mask.
It’s really important a mask is worn correctly. The mask will become contaminated with droplets so once you’ve put it on, don’t touch it. When you’re taking it off, make sure you don’t touch the mask because your hands will be contaminated and if you touch your face it can lead to infection.
Throw the mask away as soon as it’s removed and wash your hands, either with soap and water for 20 seconds or an alcohol-based hand gel if soap and water aren’t available.
Social distancing is the most important thing people with CF can do to help minimise their risk. People with CF shouldn’t go out in any crowded situations when there’s a possibility of community transmission. If they have to go out, a surgical mask that you can throw away is best.
If people use a home-made mask this will also provide some protection but you need to avoid touching your face when wearing it, wash it after use and wash your hands straight away.