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"Contagion" star Gwyneth Paltrow posts photo in face mask

Danielle Garrand

for healthy people.

The  before a House Appropriations subcommittee. He said people mistakenly have a sense that "the mask" is the "be all, end all of either preparedness or response activities."

He was asked about N95 masks, which are respirators that the CDC says filter out at least 95% of airborne particles. They need to be properly fitted in order to work effectively.

"It's an element in our armamentarium, mostly for health care workers," Azar said. "And that's that N95 mask that's actually fitted. It has to be carefully fitted, and it can protect the worker."

Paltrow's mask, a $99 product from the brand Airinum, is certified as a KN95 mask that delivers "equivalent results" to the N95, according to its website. It is currently sold out.

Dr. Frank Esper, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at the Cleveland Clinic, and other experts say washing your hands frequently is the best way to prevent the spread of infectious illnesses like coronavirus or, more commonly, the flu.

The coronavirus epidemic that started in China late last year continues to spread around the world, with hundreds more cases confirmed in South Korea on Wednesday and Italy and Iran racing to try and control smaller but worrying outbreaks.

The CDC warned Americans Tuesday to be prepared for the illness to start spreading within the U.S. populace, saying it's a question of when, not if.

Sarah Lynch Baldwin contributed to this report.

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