Young woman wearing a mask in outdoor setting.

If you thought masks were a thing of the past, think again. The health authorities are organizing their big comeback

Flu season has well and truly arrived in Australia and is shaping up to be one of the worst in years as the number of cases continues to rise.

It can be an unpleasant disease, and coupled with COVID-19, which is still circulating in the community, it is already straining the country’s hospital and health services.

Some health experts, including Queensland’s Deputy Chief Health Officer, have called on people to consider wearing face masks in public again to reduce the spread of flu and COVID.

Masks have been an essential tool throughout the pandemic to stop the spread of the virus – so can they do the same with the flu?

Will wearing a mask prevent me from catching the flu?

Not necessarily.

Gerry Fitzgerald, professor of public health and disaster management at Queensland University of Technology, said masks can certainly offer some protection in reducing the spread of flu, but are more effective if you are already infected.

Queenslanders are preparing for what looks to be an unprecedented flu season.(ABC News: Kym Agius)

“Masks that are generally available don’t offer much protection to the individual due to their lightweight material,” he said.

“When you exhale, the majority of the virus particles you exhale are… bigger.

“[When your face is covered]which reduces their likelihood [infected people] spread it to uninfected people. »

The flu spreads easily, mainly through sneezing and coughing.

Professor Fitzgerald said the effectiveness of masks also depends on what type you wear and how you wear it.

More on that soon.

Where should I wear a mask?

woman sitting on suitcase at airport wearing mask
Face masks are mandatory at all airports and on public transport.(Pexels/Anna Shvets)

Professor Fitzgerald said people should definitely wear a mask in the following contexts:

  • Hospitals
  • Retirement homes for the elderly
  • Disabled facilities
  • Airports
  • In public transports
  • In “congested” areas

“Influenza is a less serious illness than COVID-19 but it is serious nonetheless… and it causes a number of deaths each year,” Professor Fitzgerald said.

“So in terms of flu protection, in high-risk settings, or where social distancing isn’t possible, certainly [you should wear a mask].

“The quick answer is – if you’re in circumstances where it’s hard to keep a distance from others, it’s worth considering wearing a mask.”

What mask should I wear?

generic office worn face mask
N95 masks offer more protection than surgical masks.(ABC Kimberley: Andrew Seaborne)

A face mask can be a reusable cloth face mask or a single-use surgical mask, which includes a P2 or N95 mask.

For it to be effective, it should cover your nose and mouth and fit snugly under your chin, across the bridge of your nose, and against the sides of your face.

Surgical masks can prevent other people’s respiratory droplets from being released when a person breathes, speaks, coughs or sneezes, but they have design flaws and should only be worn once.

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