Surgical masks will not stop you from contracting coronavirus, pharmacist says

HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) — The World Health Organization has declared the novel coronavirus that began in Wuhan, China, a global health emergency.

Many drugstores are sold out of masks or have very little left in stock.

According to the CDC, over 200 patients were under investigation across 36 states in the U.S., but do Virginians need to be worried?

At this point, all potential cases investigated in Virginia have turned up negative.

As more coronavirus cases are reported, though, people are trying to prepare. Many are heading to local drugstores to purchase surgical masks to protect themselves from the deadly virus, but pharmacist Mel Anderson said the masks really aren't doing the job you may think they are.

Anderson, with Medicap Pharmacy in Harrisonburg, says masks help people to not spread their own germs, but do not help with contracting them from others.

"I don't really recommend that people run out and buy a bunch of masks and wear them around in public, because it's really not going to provide that much, if any, benefit at all," Anderson said.

He said unless masks are fit for a specific person, like physicians and surgeons' masks, they won't protect you from the virus.

"The average everyday mask that you get at a hardware store or somewhere like that is not going to provide you with the protection that you expect," Anderson said.

Although there have been over 200 people in the United States checked out for the coronavirus, Anderson does not believe it will come to a place like Harrisonburg.

"Areas that are impacted the most are really high dense population areas where people are in close contact all the time," Anderson said. "We don't have as much of that around here."

And he said he doesn't think people need to be worried about contracting the virus.

"Especially as there's more news coverage about the coronavirus arriving here in the United States, but there's really no reason to panic," Anderson said.

Many drugstores in Harrisonburg told WHSV they have been sold out of the masks or have very little left in stock, but Anderson says the best way to protect yourself is simple.

"Handwashing is the most important thing that you can do to protect yourself against any type of virus, not just the coronavirus," Anderson said.

At this time, Anderson said more people should be concerned about the flu, which has infected at least 19 million people this year and caused more than 10,000 deaths in the U.S.