Coronavirus latest: Should you wear a face mask if you leave the UK to prevent the virus?

Wuhan novel coronavirus triggers flu-like symptoms in people who catch it, including fever, a cough, or difficulty breathing. Like flu, the virus is airborne and very contagious, and people are being asked to take simple, common-sense steps to avoid close contact with other people as much as possible – particularly people who have rented from Wuhan in the last 14 days.

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In China more than 130 people have died from Wuhan novel coronavirus, and cases have been confirmed in Thailand, Singapore, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and the US.

As of January 28, a total of 97 UK tests of suspected coronavirus were confirmed as negative, but there are currently no confirmed cases in the UK or of UK citizens abroad.

Face masks are famously used to stop the spread of airborne viruses, like flu, but can they protect against coronavirus and should Britons consider wearing them when they leave the UK?

According to Professor Stephen Turner, Head of the Department of Microbiology at Monash University’s Biomedicine Discovery Institute, Face masks can help as long as they are the right sort.

He told Express.co.uk: “Viruses are very small so not all masks are effective at stopping the virus being breathed in.

“That said, masks especially help with limiting transmission if someone is infected as they won’t be sneezing and spreading the virus via droplets.

“Also good to practice regular hand washing with soap, avoid touching eyes/mouth if out and about, if feeling ill stay at home, if you use a tissue, throw it out once used.”

The two main face masks being stockpiled are surgical masks and N95 respirators.

World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines say healthcare workers treating patients should wear them, in addition to gloves, goggles and gowns.

They’re believed to be more effective in a clinical setting in accompaniment with other protective measures.

For the general population, surgical masks don’t completely seal off the wearer’s nose and mouth, so droplets may still get in, and the eyes are also left exposed.

Some tiny particles will also be able to pass through the fabric of surgical masks, and some surgical masks are not designed to be used more than once.

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The N95 respirators offer more protection as they’re designed to guard the nose and mouth area against 95 percent of small particles.

But they’re only effective if fitted properly.

Advice for travellers to and from Wuhan

Gov.uk has issued advice for travellers who have returned from Wuhan in the last 14 days.

It states: “Stay indoors and avoid contact with other people as you would with other flu viruses.

“Call NHS 111 to inform them of your recent travel to the city.

“Please follow this advice even if you do not have symptoms of the virus.”

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) are advising against all but essential travel to the Hubei Province in China.

Anyone travelling to China should remain vigilant and check the latest travel advice on Gov.uk.

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