U.S. Declares Coronavirus a Public Health Emergency. Do You Really Need One of Those Masks?

There's been a run on surgical face masks in Asia as people become more unnerved about the Coronavirus, which was unleashed in Wuhan,China, and has now become a "global emergency." Now, the U.S. has declared a public health emergency because of the virus.

The question people are asking is, do I need one of these surgical masks?

There are long lines to buy masks in neighboring Hong Kong:

There's mask hoarding in Japan by people from the PRC:

The virus's source is still a mystery. There are worries that it could have escaped from a germ-warfare lab in Wuhan, but the smart money is on the simplest answer, the live bat market in the city.

Airlines have canceled flights and Russia has even shut down its entire border with China until March.

CBS News reports that epidemiologists believe mask are OK if that's what floats your boat, but that they don't make a lot of sense unless you're presenting symptoms: "Wearing a mask when you don't have symptoms is not really that helpful. What is helpful though is washing your hands. Try not to touch your eyes, nose and mouth because viruses can spread easily on surfaces."

The Mayo Clinic's Q and A says face masks are ok:

It can't hurt and it might help. Some studies have shown that using a surgical mask can help prevent influenza. And using a surgical mask and an alcohol-based hand sanitizer was shown to reduce the number of influenza-like illnesses in a group of students living in a college dormitory even more than using a surgical mask alone.

In other words, keep your hands away from your eyes, mouth and nose. Wash your hands and carry hand sanitizer.

Here are some decidedly unhelpful things to do with a face mask if you're hellbent on using one.

This Chinese leader of Hong Kong shows that even the certified smart guys don't know you have to put the mask over your nose and mouth.

She needs lessons from this man:

Though interesting, to say the least, wearing face masks as a bra will not prevent disease.

No, that's not how any of this is done. You don't dig out old masks from the garbage, "recycle" them and hope not to get a disease. Any disease. Please stop.

You might be like this man who wonders "should I buy one?"

As of this writing, there are four states in which coronavirus has popped up.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is urging Americans not to travel to China:

Scientific American reports that in Germany a woman who was not symptomatic gave the disease to a business associate:

People showing no symptoms appear to be able to spread the  novel coronavirus that has caused an outbreak in China and led world health authorities  to declare a global emergency, researchers  reported Thursday in the New England Journal of Medicine. If confirmed, the finding will make it much harder to contain the virus.

The case described—from Germany—could help resolve one of the major unknowns about the virus, which as of Thursday night had infected nearly 9,700 people in China and killed 213. About 100 more infections have been reported in 18 other countries, but no deaths.

[...]

Even if asymptomatic people can spread the virus, they may be less likely to than people who are sneezing and coughing—routes for the virus to jump from one person to another.

It's not an overwhelming case for masks, but it's your call.

Wuhan has quarantined itself so that the virus won't escape any more. Everyone there is wearing a mask. But it's too late. The bug is out.