Masks vs the flu; Making a difference in cases

Alexis Haigler, reporter

  As COVID-19 continues to spread across the globe, the flu has not stopped spreading either.  Despite reduced interaction, the flu has not been completely stopped. 

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC), recommends three main behavior changes to combat Coronavirus from spreading:  social distancing (maintaining 6 ft of space from other people), washing your hands frequently and wearing a face mask.  All three of these recommendations are good behaviors to prevent the flu as well.

  Based on the knowledge of how the coronavirus and the flu is spread from person to person, it would be reasonable to wonder if the mask wearing is helpful for both.  The CDC thought so as well.  A study completed in 2013 was completed to look at face mask wearing as a viable method to control flu spread.  The study concluded that the flu was transmitted in one of three ways: First, direct or indirect contact between an infected person and a susceptible person, usually resulting in contamination of a susceptible person’s hands followed by hand to respiratory contact leading to access to the lungs.

    Secondly, when someone sneezes,  large droplet sprays wherein droplets of respiratory fluid greater than approximately 100 µm in diameter are expelled with sufficient momentum to deliver a direct hit on the respiratory mucosa.

    Third and lastly,  aerosols generated by release of smaller, virus-containing droplets, as may occur during breathing and coughing.  The study looked at infected individuals and asked them to cough into a collection device, both wearing a mask and not wearing a mask. 

  The study found that when individuals were wearing a cloth mask, there was no sign of the flu virus in the individuals’ cough.  The CDC is currently reporting lower than usual flu cases. They cite mask wearing, social distancing and an increased number of people getting the flu vaccine as the reasoning.      

  CDC guidance also suggests that COVID-19 seems to spread more easily than flu so it is logical that recommendations to reduce COVID-19 spread will also help other, less contagious diseases, like the flu.