Masks on mouths at Joburg's China Mall as coronavirus fears continue

A girl wears a mask at Bandaranaike International Airport in Katunayake, Sri Lanka. A South African pharmaceutical company has warned that wearing a mask is not a guarantee against being infected by the coronavirus.
A girl wears a mask at Bandaranaike International Airport in Katunayake, Sri Lanka. A South African pharmaceutical company has warned that wearing a mask is not a guarantee against being infected by the coronavirus.
Image: REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte

As the deadly novel coronavirus continues to spark fear, many Chinese nationals at Johannesburg's China Mall are donning face masks.

However, a leading pharmaceutical company says this is not a guaranteed way to protect yourself.

Two Chinese nationals said they had recently returned from China.

The virus was first detected in Wuhan, China, and so far more than 900 people have been confirmed dead worldwide.

The pharmaceutical company Pharma Dynamics has warned that wearing face masks provides only partial protection.

“Wearing a mask offers limited protection as one has to remove it to eat. When someone sneezes on the mask, the virus could still pass through,” said spokesperson Nicole Jennings.

In a bid to protect themselves from the virus, consumers were also buying over-the-counter nasal sprays, Pharma Dynamics said.

Jennings said the spray coats the nasal membranes, making it difficult for airborne viruses to enter the body.

In the UK, there has been a 688% spike in sales of a particular nasal spray which is also available in South Africa. It's called Nexa Shield and is distributed by Pharma Dynamics.

"One of the main points of entry for airborne germs is through one’s nose, and it is thus very effective as a first line of defence,” Jennings said. “Another way to reduce  risk is to keep up proper hygiene practices, such as washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Alternatively, alcohol-based hand sanitisers should be used. Face-to-face contact and crowded environments where germs typically thrive should be avoided,” she said.

Jennings also spoke about various points to clear misconceptions about the virus.

Firstly, she said, it was still safe to receive letters or packages from China.

“The virus doesn’t survive long on objects,” she said.

At the moment, there was no evidence the virus exists in pets. “But always wash your hands after petting or playing with your dog or cat to protect you against other germs,” she said.

At the moment there was also no way to prevent catching the virus.

“Vaccines against other respiratory diseases, such as pneumonia, do not protect you against the coronavirus, which is a brand new virus. Scientists are trying to develop a vaccine against 2019-nCoV,” she said.

Saline solutions and mouthwash were a good way to clean out sinuses, but this does not offer protection against the coronavirus, Jennings said.

“Eating garlic, which does contain some antimicrobial properties, unfortunately also offers no protection. Rubbing sesame oil or petroleum jelly on your nose will also not reduce your risk of infection,” she said.

Important to note was that no one was immune to the virus, but those with an existing condition, such as asthma, heart disease or diabetes, may be at greater risk of contracting it and were urged to take extra care.

TimesLIVE last week reported  that more than 20,000 have been affected by the virus  worldwide.

Speaking at a press conference in Pretoria last week, Lin Songtian, the Chinese ambassador to SA, confirmed no cases had been detected or confirmed in the country.

There had been several suspected cases in the country but all the tests came up negative for the virus.

Pharma Dynamics said the virus has an incubation period of up to 14 days, but typical symptoms, such as a fever, cough and shortness of breath, could start as early as two days after contracting the virus.


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