Several U.S. municipalities, notably New York City and Los Angeles County, have issued recommendations for residents to wear face masks in public buildings because to the ongoing “tripledemic” of coronavirus, influenza, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).
Hospitalizations for Covid-19 have increased by 24 percent, and the number of cases has increased by 56 percent, throughout the country in the previous two weeks.
According to the CDC, the current flu season has resulted in an estimated 13 million illnesses and 7,300 fatalities.
Deaths from the flu have averaged between 12,000 and 52,000 every year over the preceding decade, with the peak occurring in January and February. Even while the number of new cases of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) has been decreasing, it is still rather high in many parts of the nation.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) officially recommends donning a mask on a county-by-county basis, based on the Covid-19 levels in each community, which account for the number of cases, the number of hospitalizations, and the number of available beds.
However, CDC director Rochelle Walensky stated, “You don’t need to wait for CDC’s guidance, obviously, to wear a mask,” in an interview with NPR last week.
Influenza, RSV, and Covid-19 Incidence While it “may be more intense or a little bit less intense in various regions of the nation,” according to Dr. William Schaffner, a professor of preventive health at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, the disease is affecting the whole country. So, he told those in high-risk homes to “put your mask back on” whenever they go outside.
Adults over the age of 65, pregnant women, anyone with preexisting conditions like heart disease, diabetes, or lung illness, and anybody with a weaker immune system would all fall into the category of high-risk families.
While infection and hospitalization rates are so high, Dr. Helen Chu, an associate professor of allergy and infectious diseases at UW Medicine in Seattle, went even farther and suggested that everyone wear a mask.
What I believe is a good moment to hide is now,” she remarked. “Given the current state of affairs, with hospitals being near capacity due to RSV and flu, particularly in paediatric hospitals, I believe that everything that you can do to cut down community transmission is going to be useful.”
It is well established that wearing a mask may significantly lessen the spread of many respiratory infections. Researchers in Hong Kong released a study in 2020 demonstrating that persons with respiratory illnesses such as Covid-19 or the flu exhaled significantly less virus particles while using a surgical mask.
However, the rhinovirus, the source of the common cold, was shown to be less susceptible to masks.
The removal of the mask requirement in 2022 was linked to approximately 12,000 extra cases among students and employees, according to an analysis of Covid-19 policy in Boston-area schools.
Because of the precautions taken, influenza and other respiratory virus rates were relatively stable throughout the nation during the winters of 2020 and 2021. This was partly related to the fact that Covid-19 was not allowed to spread.
Dr. Schaffner said that “Covid-19 has showed us, since we’ve been social distance and mask wearing, that influenza, the common cold viruses, RSV are inhibited significantly” due to these simple individual actions.
The small aerosol particles that transmit the coronavirus can be filtered out by a mask, but the bigger droplets that are considered to be responsible for most influenza and RSV transmission may also be filtered out.
They also prevent you from touching your face, which might spread germs picked up from surfaces like doorknobs and subway poles.
While wearing a mask to prevent the transmission of these diseases is most effective when the sick person is also wearing one, doing so is still useful, especially if you choose a high-quality mask like a N95, KN95, or KF94.
Ms. Syra Madad, senior head of the systemwide specific pathogens programme at New York City Health + Hospitals, said, “The underlying reality is that masks work.” A mask will protect you against respiratory viruses including Covid-19, RSV, and the flu.
Hand washing, surface cleaning, and air filtering are also critical public health strategies for preventing the transmission of respiratory infections.
The White House and the CDC have put a particular focus on immunization, so if you haven’t already, you should be vaccinated against flu and updated with the Covid-19 booster.
However, vaccinations are most useful when they are used to lessen the severity of a sickness caused by a viral infection. Protecting oneself from contagious diseases begins with a mask.
Neither antivirals nor vaccinations have been very effective in preventing transmission, according to Dr. Abraar Karan, a postdoctoral researcher and infectious disease resident at Stanford Medicine. “Masking and perhaps air filtering are what hinder transmission.”
Ms. Madad suggests considering the “Three Cs” (close contact, crowding, and closed locations with limited ventilation) before deciding whether or not to wear a mask.
The specialists advocated for the use of masks on public transit and airplanes, as well as in grocery stores and department stores.
It’s perfectly OK to forego masks during intimate holiday gatherings with close friends and family as long as invitees know to remain at home if they’ve been showing symptoms of a cold or the flu.
One cannot assume that every citizen of the United States or of any given place will don a mask.
It’s very possible that you’ll be the lone person in a shop or on an aircraft who is sporting one. Try not to let it dampen your spirits.
Keep in mind, for starters, that no one gives you nearly as much mental space as you give them. Spotlight illusion, as described by Dr. Gretchen Chapman, a professor of social and decision sciences at Carnegie Mellon University.
I may feel like everyone is gazing at me because of my mask, but I guarantee you it is like the eleventh thing on their list of concerns.
On top of that, Dr. Chapman said, “There are many of occasions in life when we do something that makes us feel uneasy, but if we believe it’s important enough, we do it anyhow.”