01/21/2013 11:53 EST | Updated 03/23/2013 05:12 EDT

Surgical Masks Stem Flu Spread, But Not For Wearer


People looking for ways to protect themselves from the flu should understand what works and what doesn't, with at least six more weeks of flu season to go, health officials say.

Vancouver pharmacist Anita Fong says this season, more people seem to be buying surgical masks, but points out to customers that they're protecting others with such devices, not themselves.

"Especially if they're going to visit somebody in a care home or a hospital, they're wearing the mask to prevent transmission to people who may be more susceptible to getting sick," Fong says.

But she adds that it would not reduce the wearer's own risk of getting sick.

The Fraser Health Authority's Dr. Paul Van Buynder agrees..

"If you're wearing a mask in the general population, then you'll still come in contact with influenza on surfaces, in the air," Buynder says..

Buynder says the best thing you can do to try to keep illness-free is to get a flu shot and wash your hands frequently.

ALSO: The Huffington Post Healthy Living team spoke to Pritish Tosh, M.D., an assistant professor at the Mayo Clinic's Division of Infectious Diseases, to find out the biggest mistakes people make when it comes to flu prevention. Here's what not to do.

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