The following essay has been reprinted with permission. The ConversationAn online publication that covers the most recent research.
The 2022 flu and cold season has started with a vengeance. Viruses that were unusually rare in the last three years are now abundant. Reappearances at remarkably high levels, A “tripledemic” COVID-19, the flu, respiratory syncytial viruses, or RSV. The November 2009 national influenza hospitalization rates were the The highest in 10 Years.
We and our colleagues in public health had to quickly revive decades of evidence about respiratory virus transmission in order to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the course the pandemic epidemiologists have New certainty is established The fact that the face mask is still one of the oldest methods of controlling respiratory viruses is a testament to the fact that it remains one of the most effective ways to control them. most effective tools In a pandemic.
This fall’s epidemic of respiratory disease is not caused by a single virus, unlike the many COVID-19 waves that occurred in the spring 2020. Instead, masks and other measures are no longer necessary. The U.S. has reverted to the traditional cold and flu season. Many viruses co-circulate in a typical year and cause similar symptoms. This creates a wave of illness that can include ever-shifting combinations. More than 15 types and subtypes are available in the virus family.
This pattern is more evident in young children than anywhere else. Our research has shown this. Many viruses can be found in classrooms at onceIndividual children can also be infected. Two to three viruses even during a single illness.
Respiratory viruses such as the seasonal flu can cause serious illness and inconveniences to most people. For those who have missed work School. They can cause severe illness in some cases, especially for very young children and elderly adults. Parents are exhausted after years of fighting just one virus.
There is an easy way to reduce the risk to ourselves and others. Masks are one of the most cost-effective and effective ways to reduce transmission of many viruses.
Researchers were already studying the effectiveness masks have on reducing the transmission of other respiratory viruses long before the COVID-19 pandemic. Meta-analyses of viral spread in the course of the Original SARS epidemic 2002-2003 One infection was found. For every six people wearing a masque, avertedFor every three people who were Wearing an N95 mask.
Mask-wearing by healthcare workers has been a primary strategy since the beginning. protecting young at-risk infants RSV infection transmitted in hospital settings. The fact that mask-wearing is often combined with other strategies such as hand-washing has hampered scientific evaluation of their effectiveness. However, personal protective equipment such as masks, gloves, and possibly goggles, is a common practice in the healthcare setting. Reduced transmission of RSV.
Similar results were found in a large pre-COVID-19 randomized study of mask-wearing. It was conducted with over a thousand University of Michigan students from 2006 to 2007. The study showed that mask-wearers had a lower incidence of symptoms of respiratory illness. This was especially true for mask-wearers. Hand hygiene was combined with masks.
Researchers have recently measured the amount virus in exhaled air from people suffering from respiratory symptoms. This was done to see if masks could block the release of virus particles. The mask-wearing participants had lower respiratory shedding for influenza, rhinovirus (which causes the common cold) and non-SARS coronaviruses. Those with no masks are better than those without..
Three years after the pandemic, the evidence surrounding masks has increased tremendously, as well as our personal experience with them. Laboratory studies and outbreak investigations have proven that masks are effective in controlling the spread of the pandemic. Lower the amount of viruses that enter the air Reduce the number of viruses They enter our lungs when we breathe.. Recent studies have shown that a surgical mask can be worn in public indoors. This reduces the chance of you being positive for COVID-19 By 66% and wearing a N95/KN95 type mask lowers the chances of testing positive by 83%
When schoolchildren are masked, infections drop.
Our research has shown that mask-wearing has a major impact on transmission of SARS CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, and other viruses. The spread of the highly transmissible delta variant In the fall 2021, we discovered that schoolwide requirements for masks were This is linked to a decrease in COVID-19 infections. Children of school age living in areas without mask requirements were infected faster than those who lived in districts with partial or complete mask requirements. Similar patterns were observed in other states that coincide with the outbreak. Reduction of school mask requirements In spring 2022
Our initial research in a community that is known for mask-wearing has shown that the The rate of non-COVID respiratory illnesses in families has fallen by 50% Comparing with previous years, the rates of infection in 2020 and 2021 were lower during 2020-2021. Participants reported that they had stopped wearing masks and changed to other mitigation methods in the early 2022. This was when the virus epidemic that gripped the U.S. began returning. Curiously, this resurgence began with the reappearances of the four seasonal coronaviruses known as “common cold” and “common flu”.
Unfortunately, only two major causes of respiratory illness are covered by vaccines. SARS-CoV-2 And influenza. Antiviral treatments for SARS-CoV-2 or influenza are also more common than those for RSV. RSV vaccines have been in development for many decades and are expected to be available soon. become available soonHowever, it is not possible to stop the current wave of illness.
Masks, on the other hand, can reduce transmission of all respiratory viruses. There is no need to tailor the intervention for each virus. Masks are a low-cost and low-tech way to keep people healthy during the holidays so that more people can enjoy the time with their loved ones.