The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has issued new advisory to guide Nigerians on the use of face masks to prevent themselves against new coronavirus (COVID-19).
The Director-General (D-G) of NCDC, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, issued the advisory on Tuesday in Abuja while giving an update on COVID-19.
Ihekweazu said that NCDC recognised the need for guidance on COVID-19 prevention, and remained committed to keeping Nigerians informed on verified ways to stay safe against the pandemic.
He said that globally, there was a debate on the effectiveness of masks as a preventive measure against COVID-19.
According to him, evidence in favour of the use of masks include that it can prevent an asymptomatic person (a person who never develops symptoms) from transmitting the disease as well as prevent transmission during pre-symptomatic period ( before a person develops symptoms).
He added that there was emerging evidence of the ability of a mask to prevent contact with respiratory droplets.
The D-G said that comparisons also appeared to suggest better outcomes in countries that used masks as a general policy.
“Sources of concern have been that people who wear face masks may feel protected and ignore physical distancing advice.
“In addition, if face masks are not worn correctly, disposed of appropriately or if people touch their faces more frequently due to adjustments of face masks they are wearing, they run a higher risk of infection,” he, however, said.
He said that in view of these, the NCDC advised that wearing of face masks or equivalents was recommended as an optional layer to be used in addition to other measures such as physical distancing, hand washing and respiratory hygiene measures.
“Masks have to be properly disposed of in waste bins. Improper handling and frequently touching of masks can increase the risk of infection.
“Improvised masks are an option as long as they are properly washed regularly.
“They can be made out of cloth or other materials,” he advised.
The D-G said that usage of face masks was particularly advisable when attending gatherings “where it is absolutely necessary to attend”.
He listed such gatherings to include shopping outlets, markets and pharmacies.
Ihekweazu noted that patients and healthcare workers needed masks the most.
He advised that old persons with medical conditions such as diabetes should wear masks since they were at a higher risk of the infection.
He also advised that face masks should be used by those with respiratory problems and those already exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms and awaiting testing.
Ihekweazu said it was important to note that usage of face masks alone could not be relied upon to prevent COVID-19.
He said that physical distancing and regular hand washing were necessary for protection against the virus.