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Surgical masks to ward off coronavirus are selling out

South Florida Sun Sentinel - 1/28/2020

In Fort Lauderdale, the Las Olas Chemist has sold out of surgical masks and ordered more. So has the Pill Box in the Tower Shops of Davie.

Local pharmacies, like retailers across the country, are seeing a panic over the masks spotted around the world on Chinese citizens trying to protect themselves during an outbreak of coronavirus.

Although questions remain over exactly how the coronavirus is spreading so quickly, the Centers for Disease Control cautioned Americans on Tuesday during a news briefing not to rush out to buy surgical masks to protect themselves.

“It’s unnecessary,” said Alex Azar, United States Secretary of Health and Human Services. “The risk in America is low. We are taking steps to be prepared. Individual Americans should not be impacted in their day to day life.”

Surgical masks are a basic defense against some viruses but aren’t considered respiratory protection by the CDC for preventing coronavirus transmission. Most surgical masks don’t filter out small particles or protect against airborne droplets. They do, however, protect from large respiratory droplets from a sneeze or a cough).

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, five cases of what is known as 2019 Novel Coronavirus have been confirmed in Washington, Illinois, California, and Arizona, with at least 100 more individuals in the U.S. awaiting their results. Miami has become one of the cities with a quarantine station where travelers are being tested for coronavirus.

U.S. health officials Tuesday said they are working on a three-pronged approach: developing a vaccine, more advanced tests and treatments for the virus that has now sickened more than 4,500 people worldwide and killed at least 106.

Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Disease, said health officials are closely monitoring whether coronavirus can be spread only after symptoms emerge or prior, which would make it more difficult to isolate someone who has the virus before spreading it.

“We have reports of asymptomatic infection from just a few countries and we are looking at that data closely,” she said. “We have five cases in the U.S. and no evidence of human-to-human. All five had traveled to China.” Messonnier said the five individuals in the U.S. are being tested again, and observed, to better understand how coronavirus is transmitted.

Meanwhile, the high filtration medical barrier surgical masks are sold out on Amazon.

Cindy Krischer Goodman can be reached at cgoodman@sunsentinel.com, 954-356-4661, Twitter and Instagram @cindykgoodman

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