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The importance of wearing a mask in public: What you need to know

Posted at 6:21 AM, Apr 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-07 07:23:18-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — You're probably seeing more people taking the CDC's guidance and wearing face masks, but some of you aren't using them the right way.

The mask is supposed to take care of you when you leave the house to go to essential businesses. It's also important to take care of your mask so you don't get sick.

Before handling your mask, doctors say it's important you wash your hands. Make sure it's covering both your mouth and nose.

Dr. James Hildreth, of Meharry Medical College, says people are making mistakes. He says it's important that you avoid touching the outside of your mask.

“If you wear a face covering and if it does what it's supposed to do, there may well be the virus on the outside surface so the first thing you should do when you take it off, and avoid touching the front of it, is to wash your hands. Please make it out of something that can be laundered and dried in the dryer,” said Dr. Hildreth.

Dr. Hildreth says another easy way to clean your cloth mask is to put it in a plastic bag, and microwave it for two to three minutes to kill any germs. Don't forget, even if you're wearing one, you still need to practice social distancing.

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What is COVID-19 (a.k.a. the new coronavirus?)

According to the World Health Organization, coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases. Examples include the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV). A novel coronavirus (nCoV) is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans. COVID-19 stands for "Coronavirus disease 2019," which is when this strain of the coronavirus was discovered.

What are the symptoms?

The CDC says patients confirmed to have the 2019-nCoV reportedly had mild to severe respiratory illness with:

  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing

Or at least two of the following symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Repeated shaking with chills
  • Muscle pain
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • New loss of taste or smell

At this time, the CDC believes symptoms could appear as soon as two days after exposure, or as long as 14 days.

Prevention

The CDC is recommending "common sense" measures such as:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a cloth face cover when around others.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.