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How effective are masks at stopping the spread of coronavirus?

With flu season in full swing and multiple cases of coronavirus confirmed in the U.S., is the safety precaution advocated for by doctors really that effective?

If you're sick and go to the doctor, chances are they'll make you wear a surgical mask to help prevent the spread of germs.

Now that multiple cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in the U.S., the appearance of these masks seems to be ever more present in the media. 

But are they effective? Studies show that if worn properly, it doesn’t matter the brand of surgical mask you wear, if you wear it, it helps.

According to a study published in the International Journal of Infectious Diseases, families with kids who had flu-like symptoms and used the masks properly were 80% less likely to be diagnosed with the same thing.

Another study looked at 400 people who had the flu found that family members who wore a surgical mask and washed their hands reduced their chance of getting the flu by 70%.

“Individual brands of masks and that sort of thing hasn't been studied, but the few studies that have looked at them do have an effect – in some studies, up to 50 to 80% reduction in transmission,” UW virology expert Alex Greninger said. “They seem to stop large droplets, and I think the other key thing to mention with masks is that it really depends on what you're willing to wear.”

Coronavirus is most commonly spread through the air by coughing or sneezing or though close personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands, according to the Washington State Department of Health.

While masks do seem promising, it's also important to utilize other preventive measures. Make sure you wash your hands often during flu season, especially if you're around others who may be sick. Also, be sure to get your annual flu shot to protect yourself and others from spreading the virus.

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