• China seized 31 million fake face masks during the coronavirus outbreak, which has spread to 37 countries and killed more than 2,700 people and infected more than 80,000, Kyodo News reported Wednesday.
  • Global demand for face masks is fierce, particularly in China, where shortages in supply have been rampant.
  • Manufacturers and distributors of non-CDC-approved masks have emerged, selling masks that are inadequate.
  • Experts say, however, that even legitimate face masks offer slight protection against coronavirus — if any — but that handwashing is essential.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

China confiscated 31 million counterfeit face masks during the coronavirus outbreak, Kyodo News reported Wednesday.

Face masks have become increasingly scarce and demand continues to skyrocket as China and dozens of other countries around the world battle the novel COVID-19 disease, which has killed more than 2,700 people and infected more than 80,000.

Even though other countries have sent face mask donations to China, it still faces shortages as citizens continue to clean out stock in stores and online. 

The rampant demand has given illegitimate manufacturers an opportunity to wedge into the market to produce and sell counterfeit face masks. Top-selling face mask companies have warned consumers to be leery of these kinds of counterfeits and not to buy from illegitimate sellers.

There have been nearly 688 cases of fake mask production and distribution in China, involving about 1,560 arrests, the report said.

However, experts say face masks aren’t necessary or even very effective. Rather, hygiene practices like handwashing and keeping a distance from infected people work better.

Even N95 respirators masks, designed to filter out air particles 0.3 microns in diameter, are not able to block coronavirus, which can be as small as 0.2 microns.

Here’s a list of CDC-approved masks and images of counterfeit respirators.

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