Man uses snake as a face mask on bus through Manchester

Experts have strongly advised against using snakes as face coverings to protect against the spread of coronavirus.

It comes after a man was spotted with what looked like a python around his neck and face on a bus in Salford, Greater Manchester.

After boarding the Swinton to Manchester service yesterday, the man left passengers stunned by letting the reptile wrap itself around the handrails during the journey.

One 46-year-old traveller told the Manchester Evening News: ‘He had it wrapped around his face like a mask getting on the bus.

‘At first I thought he had a really funky mask on, then he let it crawl around the handrails.

‘No one was really bothered on the bus but a man behind took a video. It was definitely entertaining.’

Just in case you were wondering, medical experts have strongly discouraged using snakes as face masks in any setting.

Professor of Science Communication at the University of Gloucestershire Adam Hart told Metro.co.uk: ‘There are, unsurprisingly, no studies of the effectiveness of “snake masks” but I think we can confidently say that this is not an effective way of reducing the spread of coronavirus.

‘The gaps between the coils that allow the “wearer” to breathe will also allow virus particles to pass through. It is, quite frankly, a ridiculous face covering.’

When asked what other dangers the ‘mask’ could pose, Professor Hart said: ‘From the photo it looks like the snake is a large python so it isn’t venomous but instead kills prey by constriction.

‘Many pet constrictors are quite used to being handled and are very docile but clearly having a large snake in a position to potentially wrap itself around your neck is a risk.

‘Likewise, if it decided to wrap itself around your head then it could well become very difficult indeed to breathe if your nose and mouth become tightly covered.

‘The risk is low if the snake is well-known to the handler, but a bus is an unfamiliar environment for the snake, which could make it less predictable.’

‘There is also the danger of members of the public reacting badly to its presence, or attempting to touch the snake. Overall, I think we can safely say that snakes don’t belong on buses.’

Pharmacist at Chemist Click Abbas Kanani added: ‘There is no science that shows that this method can help to reduce the risk of transmission or risk of becoming contaminated with airborne particles.

‘Covid is spread via droplets in the air, and a snake will not provide a seal of protection around the mouth or nose. This will not reduce the risk of spreading covid, and it will provide little to no protection to the “wearer”.

‘From the pictures, it appears as though the snake is freely coming into contact with railings and not maintaining hygiene. It is unknown whether the snake can pick up covid and transmit it to its owner, but this is a potential risk.

‘Snakes are meant to be kept in the wild, and are not really meant to be kept as pets. Snakes that are kept in captivity and passed around/patted etc can leave them prone to illness.’

Also advising against the man’s choice of neckwear was Dr Jessica May, UK lead vet at FirstVet. She said: ‘The purpose of face coverings is to protect the wearer and those around them by collecting moisture droplets from the mouth and nose.

‘There is no evidence to say a snake will do this effectively, nor is it safe to wrap snakes around the face and nose. When using public transport, it is always best to use a face mask; animals are not an appropriate substitute for PPE.’

She warned that covering the nose and mouth with a snake could lead to suffocation, ‘even if you are an experienced handler, working with a familiar snake’.

Dr May added: ‘Should the animal become startled, aggressive or afraid, there is the possibility of it, if it is a constricting snake, tightening its grasp, cutting off air flow, hurting the person handling the snake.

‘There is also the risk that the animal could attack or bite its owner, or someone within close proximity to it.

‘Bringing a snake into an enclosed space with members of the public is irresponsible and not advisable. Snakes are not typically domestic animals, so may pose a danger to other people.

‘In an environment which they are not used to, animals are more likely to behave in unpredictable ways, as is anyone who has a phobia of that specific creature, increasing the risk to everyone present.

‘When transporting snakes, it is best to keep them in a specialised container, made specifically for that purpose.’

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