Coronavirus outbreak: Do masks prevent spread of disease?

Do masks prevent spread of disease?

>>>WATCH LIVE: Centers for Disease Control updates on its response to the coronavirus

DAYTON — With the spread of the novel coronavirus, surgical masks are out of stock across many parts of China.

After Miami University officials announced Tuesday that two students were tested for possible coronavirus cases after traveling to China for winter break, many students on campus started wearing masks.

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News Center 7's Josh Jackson spoke to a physician to find out whether face masks really protect against the virus.

“Right now, we don’t know if masks do help or not in areas affected. What the mask will help do in general is reduce the spread as you sneeze or cough,” said Dr. Roberto Colon of Miami Valley Hospital. “What we don’t know is if those masks actually prevent the passage of infection from one person to another if they are airborne.”

The novel coronavirus causes more severe symptoms than other recent outbreaks, but far fewer of the cases are fatal.

“For most patients even with this novel coronavirus we’ve seen over 6,000 cases and we’ve only seen about 130 deaths,” Colon said.

It’s still not to be taken lightly, and hospitals across the country are taking precautions.

All of Premier Health Hospitals on Wednesday announced they have enacted an advanced screening protocol.

“Part of the response in this heightened level of monitoring that we’re doing led us to initiate a global screening for our facility. Anyone that comes into our facility is going to get a screening travel history as well as symptom history,” Colon said.

Doctors are still learning about the new virus and admittedly don’t have all the answers.

“What are the traits for the people that are having severe illness? Who is is that’s affected in a fatal way? Are they very old or young? This is what we’re trying to learn from the virus so we can have more of a balanced response,” Colon said.

When it comes to wearing masks in an effort to protect against the flu virus, “It can’t hurt and it might help,” the Mayo Clinic told CBS News.