Can a face mask protect you from the flu?
In Japan, face masks are considered etiquette and, as a result, we frequently see Japanese travellers covering up wherever they go. But do face masks keep the wearer healthier?
The experts say that wearing a face mask is unlikely to stop you getting sick, but if you are sick, it will lessen the likelihood of you spreading the virus or illness.
Professor Stephen Turner, head of Monash University's microbiology department, told The Age: “Many of the surgical masks that people use are not designed properly to filter out very small particles so if the flu virus is floating around, it could potentially get through it.”
But if a person with the flu was sneezing in a public place, a surgical mask could limit the spread of the virus.
America researchers counted the number of virus particles in the air around patients with the flu and found that surgical masks decreased the exhalation of large viral droplets significantly, but were less effective against fine viral droplets that remained suspended in the air longer.
So what does work given the flu is particularly virulent this year?
Head virologist at Melbourne’s Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity, Associate Professor Aeron Hurt, says: “Trials with things like vitamin C, elderberries, garlic or mother's chicken soup ... haven't been evaluated to the type of level we would expect of medicine ,so it's very hard to know if they work.
“But there's no doubt being fit and healthy, having good hygiene, washing your hands regularly and having a healthy lifestyle which involves eating well does aid immune response.
“Our best measure for preventing infection is to be vaccinated."