Currently, there is not enough evidence for or against the use of masks (medical or other) in healthy individuals in the wider community. However, WHO is actively studying the rapidly evolving science on masks and continuously updates its guidance.
Medical masks are recommended primarily in health care settings, but can be considered in other circumstances (see below). Medical masks should be combined with other key infection prevention and control measures such as hand hygiene and physical distancing.
Why? Medical masks and respirators such as N95, FFP2 or equivalent are recommended for and should be reserved for, healthcare workers while giving care to patients. Close contact with people with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 and their surrounding environment are the main routes of transmission, which means healthcare workers are the most exposed.
People who are sick and exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19
Why? Anyone who is sick, with mild symptoms such as muscle aches, slight cough, sore throat or fatigue, should isolate at home and use a medical mask according to WHO’s recommendation on home care of patients with suspected COVID-19. Coughing, sneezing or talking can generate droplets that cause can spread the infection. These droplets can reach the face of others nearby and land on the surrounding environment. If an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks while wearing a medical mask, this can help to protect those nearby from infection. If a sick person needs to go to a health facility they should wear a medical mask.
Anyone taking care of a person at home who is sick with COVID-19
Why? Those caring for individuals who are sick with COVID-19 should wear a medical mask for protection. Again, close, frequent and prolonged contact with someone with COVID-19 puts caretakers at high risk. National decision makers may also choose to recommend medical mask use for certain individuals using a risk-based approach. This approach takes into consideration the purpose of the mask, risk of exposure and vulnerability of the wearer, the setting, the feasibility of use and the types of masks to be considered.
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