Medical practitioners have warned against improper use of face masks in preventing the spread of COVID-19, saying it should be washed immediately after use.
According to them, failure to wash face masks immediately after use will defeat the purpose for which they are worn.
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control has emphasised that wearing of face masks may only be effective in preventing the transmission of COVID-19 if they are worn and disposed of appropriately.
It added that mask wearing should be combined with other preventive measures such as hand hygiene and social distancing.
A medical laboratory scientist, Akujuobi Igwe, told PUNCH HealthWise in an interview that those who do not wash their face masks after use are more at risk of getting infected as well as spreading it.
Akujuobi explained, “It is expected that when people are outdoors, they are to wear their face masks. When they return home, even if it is for two hours or the whole day, they are expected to wash the masks properly immediately they remove them.
“There are a lot of particles hooked up as micro organisms that are likely to adhere on the outer parts of those masks that we wear.
“So, we need to safely remove them and wash them immediately to avoid contaminating ourselves with those microorganisms.
“Again, there are risks of spreading infection if you accumulate them before washing. The risk is higher when you accumulate them.”
Giving insight on how to wash face masks, Igwe, who is Laboratory/Research Director at Rotan Medical Diagnostic, Lagos, said, “People can wash face masks with soap or detergent. Ordinary soap is very effective.
“After washing a face mask, sun-dry it as part of sterilisation rather than drying it indoors. That is why people are expected to have as many face masks as they can afford.
“Now, it does not matter whether cold water or hot water is used to wash them. What is more important is the use of soap or detergent with clean water. They should be washed very thoroughly.”
According to him, the reusable masks are those to be washed and not the surgical/disposable masks.
“It is not advisable to wash disposable masks. They should be discarded after use”, he said.
He noted that those wearing face masks on their jaws and neck, without covering their mouth or nose, or covering only their mouth while the nose is left open, are at risk of contracting the viral infection.
The laboratory scientist therefore, called on the government to intensify public enlightenment on proper use of face masks in battling the pandemic.
Another medical practitioner, Jessica Rivera, who is an infectious disease epidemiologist, said, “You can wash your reusable mask as you would any other fabric item — throw it in the laundry, or wash it by hand with soap and water. It’s best to use hot water and to dry it using high heat.”
The World Health Organisation says that the use of a mask alone is insufficient to provide an adequate level of protection.
The world health body, however, notes that wearing of face mask is one of the most effective ways of slowing community transmission of the virus.
WHO Risk Communication Officer, Hawa Sesay, had, during the 2020 World Mask Week in August, said, “The correct use of face mask is key to ensuring containment of the spread of the COVID-19 in our communities.
“Face mask can be sometimes uncomfortable, but contracting COVID -19 is more uncomfortable and riskier.
“Let us all continue to wear face mask to protect our lives and that of our loved ones.”
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