Why wearing a mask is a considerate thing to do for others, not just yourself

Are you wearing a mask to keep other people’s cooties out of your nose? Or is wearing a mask when you have a cold or the flu a considerate thing to do, to protect others from your cooties? Below is a highly scientific explanation from the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) of how breathing, coughing and sneezing affect everyone and everything in your vicinity. One hearty sneeze can travel up to 8 yards – 24 feet. See the JAMA website (link below) for more information.    [but note that non-symptomatic transmission is nonexistent, and coronavirus particles are smaller than masks can filter -rw]

The current coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak vividly demonstrates the burden that respiratory infectious diseases impose in an intimately connected world. Unprecedented containment and mitigation policies have been implemented in an effort to limit the spread of COVID-19, including travel restrictions, screening and testing of travelers, isolation and quarantine, and school closures.

A key goal of such policies is to decrease the encounters between infected individuals and susceptible individuals and decelerate the rate of transmission. Although such social distancing strategies are critical in the current time of pandemic, it may seem surprising that the current understanding of the routes of host-to-host transmission in respiratory infectious diseases are predicated on a model of disease transmission developed in the 1930s that, by modern standards, seems overly simplified. Implementing public health recommendations based on these older models may limit the effectiveness of the proposed interventions.

Understanding Respiratory Infectious Disease Transmission

In 1897, Carl Flügge showed that pathogens were present in expiratory droplets large enough to settle around an infected individual. “Droplet transmission” by contact with the ejected and infected fluid phase of droplets was thought to be the primary route for respiratory transmission of diseases. This view prevailed until William F. Wells focused on tuberculosis transmission in the 1930s and dichotomized respiratory droplet emissions into “large” and “small” droplets.


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