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Health News of Friday, 24 April 2020

Source: Alhaji Iddi Muhayu-Deen,contributor

Rightful use of Ghana-made face masks will slow coronavirus spread - Dr DaCosta

The Director of Health Promotion at the Ghana Health Service, Dr DaCosta Aboagye, has advised Ghanaians that using Ghana made facemasks is necessary especially in confined spaces such as workplaces, buses and shops to reduce the risk of passing on the virus.

According to the Public Health Promotion and Risk Communication expert, if Ghana -made facemasks are produced based on the approved standards, recommendations, certification by Food Drug Authority and used rightly, it can support the social distancing protocols to prevent the spread of the virus.

He suggested while it is important to make the wearing of face masks mandatory, it is also important to educate people on the proper use of masks. The wearing of the mask, according to him, must also be complemented with other preventive measures and protocols since the mask only provides minimal protection.

Providing mask education on KasapaFm morning show in Accra on Thursday, 23rd April 2020, Dr Aboagye said although the mask, used rightly could provide an appreciable level of protection, it is not a replacement for the frequent washing of hands with soap and water under running water or the frequent use of at least 70 per cent alcohol-based hand rub and other hygienic practices due to the mode of transmission.


On Ghana made face mask, he said it should conform to FDA regulations in terms of standards but encouraged Ghanaians to wear the masks in confined spaces, public places or crowded spaces at all times.

Dr Da Costa Aboagye provided a 10 step guide on proper use of Ghana made face masks.

· Wash or sanitize hands before wearing a Ghana made facemask.

· Fix mask tightly, depending on the style with elastic bands or ties.

· Position masks well to avoid air leaks.

· Wash or sanitize hands after fixing it on (or wearing it).

· Once mask is on, avoid touching face or the face of the mask.

· If touched unintentionally, sanitize hands after each touch.

· When drinking or eating , remove the mask appropriately and wear it afterwards correctly

· Carry extra clean masks for possible changes in the day.

· Wash reusable masks daily and dry well before ironing if needed.

· Always keep a plastic bag to store used or contaminated masks well away from the clean masks.

· used all the above in combination with good universal hygiene behaviour in order for them to be effective.

Wrongful use of mask

Dr Da Costa explained that people have heard about the mask and have resorted to it without paying attention to the information on the right use . Wrongful use of the mask will provide no protection and increase vulnerabilities. Citing some of the wrongful uses of the mask, he said, people often touch their faces intermittently while it is on. Others too, do not fit it tightly as it is supposed to, and also often pull the mask down to either their chin or leave it hanging over their necks to take some moments of relief. He said, all the above mentioned increases vulnerability and defeat the purpose of the mask, particularly, because the virus is transmitted by droplets from coughs and sneeze of infected persons and in few occasions’ droplets from talking.

Dr Aboagye said the droplets either land directly on the face introducing the virus to the respiratory system through the mouth, nose and eyes or picking the virus with the hands by touching surfaces on which droplets of infected persons have landed such as the masks, tables, door handles, taps and introducing it to the respiratory system by again touching the face.

“Many people have asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic infections. If they are wearing face masks, it can prevent droplets that carry the virus from escaping and infecting others”, he noted.

However, he said the surgical mask could also be used by people in overcrowded places where potentially affected persons might be and where social distancing would be difficult, to prevent droplets from infected persons through coughing and sneezing or even talking from landing on the face.

While applauding the public for their eagerness to protect themselves, he reiterated that the best way to protect one’s self from the current COVID-19 and any other virus infection such as the flu was to stick to basic hygiene and social distancing.

“Frequently wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap under running potable water, ensuring that the palms and in between the fingers and nails are focused on. Ensure that up to a little above the wrist are well cleaned; avoid touching your face -especially your mouth, nose and eyes- sneeze or cough into your covered elbow or tissue and dispose of immediately; stay home when you are sick and call for help and disinfect surfaces often among other precautionary measures,” he admonished.

Types of masks and level of protection

Dr Aboagye said there were three types of face mask, which were the ordinary one known as disposable surgical mask, also called a medical mask, which covers the lower face and may be pleated, cuplike or duckbill-shaped and the N95, which is also cuplike, has a respirator and often has N95 embossed on them. There is a third one made with Ghana cloth

He said surgeons and other health professionals wear surgical mask in the operating room and during some other types of procedures to prevent liquid spill or splash from entering their nose and mouths as well as symptomatic patients to put them or to protect others. Adding that, the N95 masks, which is always written on them and also called disposable N95 respirators had higher-quality in terms of providing a face seal that allowed only filtered air to reach the person as well as providing a high degree of protection against airborne pathogen with their ability to block 95 per cent of airborne particles if worn properly.

Dr. DaCosta noted that, named after its ability to block at least 95 per cent of tiny particles, the N95 was tricky to put on, explaining that the key was to wear the mask firmly around the nose and mouth without any gaps. He said with the N95, once on, it should not be removed as periodic removal rendered it ineffective. However, he said those were much more expensive and not readily available to the public.

“The Ordinary mask could be helpful to some extent. And so people wearing it should not think they are 100 per cent protected. A lot of particles can penetrate and it can get soaked and become a conduit for increasing virus and bacteria. The difference between the surgical or face masks and N95 masks lies in the size of their pores which allows particles or no particles to pass through”. he posited.

Ghana made mask approved by the Food and Drugs Authority is the third one. It is made of local fabrics and when use rightly can slow the spread of the virus. It has several benefits such as being cheap and made from household items, protects us all since there are people in the community with COVID-19 without any symptoms, addresses stigma; when we all wear a mask, no one will be labelled,effective only when used in combination with frequent handwashing with soap under running water, use of alcohol-based hand sanitizer and physical distancing, he explained

Finally, Dr Aboagye, who doubles as the Leader and Chairman of the Risk Communications and Social Mobilization for COVID-19, concluded that, the appropriate use of the face mask will provide minimal protection as against those without mask and encouraged people to wear mask at all times, and more importantly use it properly to avoid contracting the disease and spreading same.

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