A man wears a face mask as he travels on a MTR underground metro train during a Lunar New Year of the Rat public holiday in Hong Kong on January 27, 2020, as a preventative measure following a coronavirus outbreak which began in the Chinese city of Wuhan. (AFP / Anthony Wallace)

China coronavirus: health experts refute misinformation about how to wear face masks

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Misinformation about the correct way to wear disposable face masks has spread on Facebook and WhatsApp following the global outbreak of a new strain of coronavirus. The posts were shared hundreds of times by Facebook users based in Sri Lanka and the Philippines.

This post claims to demonstrate the “correct way” to wear a disposable blue and white face mask. It was published on Facebook on January 22, 2020 and has been shared more than 890 times. 

Below is a screenshot of the misleading post: 

Screenshot of the Facebook post.

The post claims that the coloured side of the mask should be visible if the wearer is infected, while the white side should be visible if the wearer is not sick. The post claims this will enable the mask's filter to effectively stop the transmission of germs. 

A similar claim was made alongside an identical image here, here, here and here on Facebook. 

The post gained traction after people across China and in neighbouring nations began wearing face masks as a precaution against a new strain of coronavirus which originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan. The virus has so far killed at least 106 people, AFP reported.


But the image shared in the posts is misleading.

Health experts have stressed that the only correct way to wear this type of disposable mask with the coloured side visible and white side turned towards the wearer's face.

Dr. Seto Wing Hong, the co-director of the World Health Organization Collaborating Centre for Infectious Disease Epidemiology and Control and a professor at the University of Hong Kong, demonstrated the proper use of face masks here

“You got to wear it like this; the blue on the outside, the white on the inside,” Dr. Seto notes. 

Dr. Seto explains that the coloured part is worn on the outside because it is waterproof and prevents moisture from entering. The white side, Seto adds, is worn on the inside because it is absorbent and prevents germs from being released to the atmosphere. 

In Sri Lanka, which confirmed its first case of coronavirus on January 28, 2020, the Health Promotion Bureau also maintains that correctly wearing a face mask is vital to mitigating the spread of air-borne viruses.

“There is only one way to wear a disposable surgical mask the right way: the blue or colored part must be worn on the outside and the white panel should be worn on the inside,” an agency spokesperson told AFP by phone on January 28, 2020.

The Chief Matron of the Colombo National Hospital, Pushpa Ramyani Zoysa, also addressed the misleading claims about face masks on Facebook here

Below is a screenshot of the post, which shows two women with the blue side of their masks visible: 

Screenshot of the Facebook post published by Colombo National Hospital Coordinator Zoysa

The post’s Sinhala language caption translates to English as: “Wear the face masks properly. Although various opinions are being shared, this is how you should wear a face mask as per experts”

The text under the image reads: “When wearing face masks in order to protect oneself from infections, make sure the white part is facing the face and the blue panel is facing out”.