Dr. David Warren, an infectious disease specialist at Barnes Jewish Hospital and an Asst. Professor at Washington University, says the masks should only be used by people who are infected, or have extremely close contact with an infected person.
For most of us, Dr. Warren says the key is to wash your hands often, use hand sanitizer and sneeze or cough into a tissue, not your hands. And, yes, if you don't have a tissue coughing or sneezing into your arm or shirt sleeze is better than doing it into your hands. It make look silly, but it's more effective at preventing the spread of the virus.
So, when you see all those people on the news walking down the street wearing masks to protect themselves from the flu, don't feel like you should be following their example. It may give them peace of mind, but the experts say it's very unlikely that it will help them avoid the flu.