WUHAN VIRUS/Washing hands more important than wearing face masks: doctors

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Taipei, Feb. 5 (CNA) Washing hands is more important than wearing face masks in the fight against the spread of the deadly 2019 novel coronavirus (2019 nCoV), doctors said Wednesday amid widespread reports of panic buying of hard to get surgical masks in Taiwan.

Ho Mei shang (???), an epidemiologist at Academia Sinica, the nation's top research institute, said she felt puzzled to see the panic buying of face masks when the country is still relatively safe from the virus.

She said that for the time being, priority in terms of face masks should be given to the needy and at risk groups such as medical professionals, and that for the general public, "washing hands is far more important than wearing face masks."

Ho, one of the nation's top epidemiologists, who rose to prominence in the fight against severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) that hit the country in 2003, urged Taiwanese people to remain calm but to be prepared for a long term battle against 2019 nCoV.

The outbreak is "unstoppable" but proper containment can help governments around the world to prepare enough resources, such as medical supplies and training medical professionals, and allow researchers to develop vaccines, she said.

"As long as we don't panic and put the right resources in the right places, we will not face a shortage," Ho said at a briefing during a ruling Democratic Progressive Party Central Standing Committee meeting Wednesday.

Chen Po lin (???) of National Cheng Kung University Hospital's Department of Internal Medicine, echoed Ho's view, saying that regular hand washing is the most effective way of preventing infection.

People with upper respiratory infections, however, should stay at home and wear face masks when outdoors, he added.

Chen Po yen (???) of Taichung Veterans General Hospital's Department of Pediatrics, said that the wearing of surgical masks for potential 2019 nCoV patients can lower the risk of possibly spreading the disease further.

In general, proper exercise, getting enough sleep and proper nutrition are the best ways of boosting the immune system, which is vital in the fight against viruses, he noted.

Huang Meng chuan (???), head of the Department of Nutrition at Kaohsiung Medical University Hospital, meanwhile, said the recommended daily amount of vegetables for people is at least 1.5 to two cups per day and two to three servings of fruit per day.

Huang also advised the use of Vitamin A, which is important for growth and development, and for the maintenance of the immune system.

The advice came in the wake of reports of shortages of surgical masks around the country as the government pledged to roll out new mask production lines to meet the surging demand.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel