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Gwyneth Paltrow, star of "Contagion," posts photo wearing a face mask on a plane: "I've already been in this movie"

Fact vs. fiction about coronavirus

Gwyneth Paltrow warned her followers about the new coronavirus on Instagram on Wednesday alongside a photo of her wearing a face mask while on a plane. She also made an apparent reference to her ill-fated character in the 2011 film "Contagion."

"En route to Paris. Paranoid? Prudent? Panicked? Placid? Pandemic? Propaganda?" the Goop founder wrote in the caption. "Paltrow's just going to go ahead and sleep with this thing on the plane. I've already been in this movie. Stay safe. Don't shake hands. Wash hands frequently."

In "Contagion," Paltrow stars as a woman who dies of a mystery ailment shortly after returning home from a business trip in Hong Kong. As "Patient Zero," Paltrow's character is the catalyst for the spread of a deadly virus worldwide and a desperate search for a cure.

Celebrities quickly flooded the comments section of the post — many with messages of safe travels for the actress.

"Be safe," wrote actress Michelle Pfeiffer. "Ready to greet you air kisses only," wrote stylist Elizabeth Saltzman. "Do it Girl," offered model and actress Brooklyn Decker.

Some commenters even referenced her role in "Contagion."

"This all feels too familiar," wrote stylist Jamie Mizrahi. "Don't have a stop over in Chicago on your way home!!!!" Paltrow's character made a stop in Chicago in the film, before returning home to the suburbs of Minneapolis. The virus breaks out in Chicago after her visit and the city must be quarantined.

"Contagion moments," wrote dancer and celebrity trainer Isaac Boots."Stay safe, bebe."

Many like Paltrow are reaching for face masks as new coronavirus cases continue to pop up worldwide. The nation's largest surgical mask manufacturer is struggling to keep pace with skyrocketing demand for its products.

But top public health officials say face masks are not recommended for healthy people.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it "does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19."

Instead, the CDC says they should only be worn by people who are showing symptoms, to help prevent the spread of the disease to others, and by health care workers or family members caring for an infected person.

Is the U.S. ready for a severe coronavirus outbreak?

On Wednesday, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar discussed the use of face masks 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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