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Surgical mask

Surgical mask

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A surgical mask also known as a procedure mask is intended to be worn by health professionals during surgery
Surgery is an ancient medical specialty that uses operative manual and instrumental techniques on a patient to investigate and/or treat a pathological condition such as disease or injury, or to help improve bodily function or appearance.An act of performing surgery may be called a surgical...

 and at other times to catch the bacteria shed in liquid droplets and aerosols from the wearer's mouth and nose.

Outside health care facilities, simple, inexpensive masks of similar appearance are commonly worn in heavily populated centres in East Asia to help prevent spreading the common cold. In Japan, it is common to wear a face mask while sick to avoid infecting others in public settings.

Surgical masks were widely used in China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

, Hong Kong
Hong Kong
Hong Kong is one of two Special Administrative Regions of the People's Republic of China , the other being Macau. A city-state situated on China's south coast and enclosed by the Pearl River Delta and South China Sea, it is renowned for its expansive skyline and deep natural harbour...

, Vietnam
Vietnam – sometimes spelled Viet Nam , officially the Socialist Republic of Vietnam – is the easternmost country on the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia. It is bordered by China to the north, Laos to the northwest, Cambodia to the southwest, and the South China Sea –...

, and Toronto
Toronto is the provincial capital of Ontario and the largest city in Canada. It is located in Southern Ontario on the northwestern shore of Lake Ontario. A relatively modern city, Toronto's history dates back to the late-18th century, when its land was first purchased by the British monarchy from...

, Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

 during outbreaks of the SARS
Severe acute respiratory syndrome
Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome is a respiratory disease in humans which is caused by the SARS coronavirus . Between November 2002 and July 2003 an outbreak of SARS in Hong Kong nearly became a pandemic, with 8,422 cases and 916 deaths worldwide according to the WHO...

A virus is a small infectious agent that can replicate only inside the living cells of organisms. Viruses infect all types of organisms, from animals and plants to bacteria and archaea...

, during the 2007 avian bird flu pandemic in Japan, and more recently in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 and Mexico City
Mexico City
Mexico City is the Federal District , capital of Mexico and seat of the federal powers of the Mexican Union. It is a federal entity within Mexico which is not part of any one of the 31 Mexican states but belongs to the federation as a whole...

 during the 2009 H1N1 flu outbreak, also known as the swine flu.

Modern surgical masks are made from paper or other non-woven material, and should be discarded after each use.


Simple surgical masks protect wearers from being splashed in the mouth with body fluids. They also remind wearers not to touch their mouth or nose, which could otherwise transfer viruses and bacteria after having touched a contaminated surface (fomite). They can also reduce the spread of infectious droplets (carrying bacteria or viruses) that are created when the wearer coughs or sneezes. They are not designed to protect the wearer from inhaling such particles. They will trap some particles but are much less effective than respirator
A respirator is a device designed to protect the wearer from inhaling harmful dusts, fumes, vapors, or gases. Respirators come in a wide range of types and sizes used by the military, private industry, and the public...

s, which are designed for this purpose.
Safety guidelines for healthcare workers recommend the wearing of a face-fit tested respirator
A respirator is a device designed to protect the wearer from inhaling harmful dusts, fumes, vapors, or gases. Respirators come in a wide range of types and sizes used by the military, private industry, and the public...

 mask conforming to United States standard NIOSH N95 or European standard EN 149 FFP3 in the vicinity of pandemic-flu patients, to reduce the exposure of the wearer to potentially infectious aerosols and airborne liquid droplets.

The CDC summary page, N95 Factsheet, provides additional information on manufacturers' products, as well as the importance of correct fitting of such masks (respirators). The printable factsheet has been designed for issue to those unacustomed to respirator use.

In its guidance regarding the 2009 swine flu outbreak, the U. S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are a United States federal agency under the Department of Health and Human Services headquartered in Druid Hills, unincorporated DeKalb County, Georgia, in Greater Atlanta...

 (CDC) said:

In popular culture

  • Cryptomeria japonica discharges a large amount of pollen in spring. To prevent allergic rhinitis
    Allergic rhinitis
    Allergic rhinitis, also known as pollenosis or hay fever, is an allergic inflammation of the nasal airways.It occurs when an allergen, such as pollen, dust or animal dander is inhaled by an individual with a sensitized immune system...

     with the pollen
    Pollen is a fine to coarse powder containing the microgametophytes of seed plants, which produce the male gametes . Pollen grains have a hard coat that protects the sperm cells during the process of their movement from the stamens to the pistil of flowering plants or from the male cone to the...

     of Cryptomeria japonica, the mask is multiused in Japan.
  • In China, Japan, and Taiwan, it is common to see these masks worn as a show of consideration for others and social responsibility.
  • The mythological figure Kuchisake Onna
    In Japanese mythology, is a woman who is mutilated by a jealous husband and returns as a malicious spirit. The Kuchisake-onna legend became popular enough to cause some panic in Japan during the 1980s, and there are even reports of schools asking children to go home in groups for safety.-Older...

     is commonly seen with a surgical mask to hide the scars on her mouth.
  • Pop star Michael Jackson
    Michael Jackson
    Michael Joseph Jackson was an American recording artist, entertainer, and businessman. Referred to as the King of Pop, or by his initials MJ, Jackson is recognized as the most successful entertainer of all time by Guinness World Records...

    often wore a surgical mask out in public to conceal his identity