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Carelessly discarded face masks litter Manila; find out the danger they pose

Several used face masks can be seen indiscriminately discarded and scattered in the streets of Manila amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) threat.

Filipinos have been using face masks to protect themselves from getting the virus—but if they just carelessly dump their used masks anywhere, they can be spreading the virus themselves, say experts.

According to a report on the South China Morning Post, Wong Chen Seong, a consultant at Singapore's National Centre for Infectious Diseases said that indiscriminately discarded masks can have "large amount of respiratory secretions on them" and are dangerous to whoever comes in contact with them.

“The way that the virus may be transmitted to others in this way is through contact—that is, if others inadvertently touch the soiled mask, and then their own face,” Wong said.

In the same report, infectious diseases expert at Mount Elizabeth Novena Specialist Centre Leong Hoe Nam,  said an exposed mask has a "small risk of passing a virus through the air."

The report added that with used faced masks that are exposed to the open, there is a risk of aerosolization—when substances like spit or mucus are transmitted through the air.

How to discard masks properly

In videos, the World Health Organization (WHO) show the proper way to use and discard face masks without them becoming an additional risk to public health.

"It is important to wear and discard it correctly, otherwise instead of protecting you the mask becomes a source of infection because of the germs that might stay on it," said a video.

To properly remove the mask, the WHO said, you should take the elastic from around your ears or untie the strings behind your head without touching the front of the mask to avoid contamination.

Once you remove the face mask, the WHO said, you should immediately "discard it in a closed bin."



Before and after wearing a mask, a person should also perform proper hand hygiene.

WHO also said that if you touch the front of your mask while wearing it, you should wash your hands.

The organization warned to "never reuse single-use masks and discard them immediately into closed bins after each use."

The Philippines has recorded 15 new confirmed cases of COVID-19, bringing the total up to 217, according to the Department of Health (DOH) as of Thursday afternoon.

The Department of Science and Technology's Philippine Textile Research Institute (DOST-PTRI) will be producing 500,000 pieces of face masks that are reusable up to 50 times to help with the shortage of surgical masks during the COVID-19 threat.

DOST-PTRI said the outer layer of the mask is water-repellent which gives it an "added protection."

They said it can "repel liquid droplets and aerosol that carry airborne bacteria and virus particles that may penetrate the wearer’s mouth and nose, thereby adding protection."  — BM, GMA News