Prime Medical Centre in BurJuman is among clinics in Dubai and northern emirates offering masks to patients. Image Credit: Courtesy: Prime Health care

Dubai: With the rise in viral and bacterial infections, private clinics in Dubai and the northern emirates have begun offering disposable face masks to patients.

Earlier, only paramedics, nurses and other health care staff at clinics wore surgical masks, but now clinics are offering these disposable surgical masks — displayed in boxes — at receptions along with hand sanitisers and disposable tissues.

Dr Kedar Patnekar, branch manager of Prime Medical Centre in BurJuman, told Gulf News: “We have been providing the surgical face masks to patients all across our 11 clinics for a long time, especially in cases where a patient is coughing and sneezing and looks very ill.”

Dr Patnekar explained that this was important to stop spread of infections as most viral infections are airborne and tiny droplets of liquid from saliva, sneezing and coughing from patients tend to spread the infection. In cases where people come in with severe infections, we offer extra masks for use at home.”

Dr Patnekar added that earlier the influenza season started in October and ended by March. “However, now it is pretty much a year-round thing as we get cases of flu during April, May and June as there is an influx of visitors to the UAE and many expatriates, especially from the Indian subcontinent travel back home.”

This brings in exposure to new strains or mutations according to health specialists.

Dr Sadashiv Bangera, CEO of Thumbay clinics told Gulf News: “Along with hand sanitisers and disposable tissues, we offer disposable surgical masks to patients in all 10 of our clinics in Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Fujarah and other emirates. This is a recent development with the rise in flu cases.”

Dr Shaji Hydrose, medical director of Aster clinic at Al Khail Gate explained that masks were not displayed at all 40 Aster clinics. “Although surgical masks have been provided to all clinics, they are only being displayed at the reception in clinics where there is a high turnover of patients with a higher frequency of viral infections.”

Dr Hydrose added that while all nurses and other health care professional at the Al Khail clinic were wearing masks, it was entirely a voluntary option for patients. “We only advise patients to use the masks and in most cases they oblige.

Are masks effective?

Disposable surgical face masks are made of non-woven fibrous material arranged in layers to act as filters. Usually they are blue in colour on one side and white on the other and have a clasp that can be hooked on to the ears to keep it in place.

The white side contains a filter and should be attached to one’s face with the blue portion facing outside.

Masks need to be worn in a manner that covers the nose and the mouth to cover these oral cavities to prevent the spread of infection. The white filter traps large particles of body fluids such as saliva and mucous that may contain bacteria or viruses expelled by the wearer. The blue seal on the outside prevents the germs from spreading in the air. These masks may not entirely prevent infection but at least reduce the severity of infection.

Masks can usually be worn for eight hours. However, if one has a coughing and sneezing bout or has a runny nose, it is usually advisable to change the mask the moment it gets damp. Make sure to dispose the mask safely in the garbage bin and not leave it in the open.