N95 masks could help prevent you from spreading H1N1, but won’t prevent it

Again, masks are just about unnecessary for average people during this outbreak:

They think wearing a mask protects them from swine flu. The mainstream media perpetuates the myth, broadcasting images of people wearing the masks, all while talking about people “protecting themselves” from swine flu. If it wasn’t a potentially life-and-death situation, it would all be quite hilarious.

But let me ask you a question: Have you ever had surgery or visited a surgery room? Did you ever notice that the surgeons and medical staff are all wearing surgical masks that are very similar to the N95 face masks being used by people afraid of swine flu?

Did you ever wonder WHY they are wearing those masks? Here’s the question: Are they wearing those masks to protect themselves from the patient’s germs? Of course not! They’re wearing those masks to prevent their own germs from infecting the patient!

N95 masks, you see, have but one purpose: To prevent the wearer from infecting others. To use blunt medical terminology, they work by preventing snot, spit or other virus-carrying particles from becoming airborne. Thus, if the wearer sneezes, coughs, drools, spits or talks excitedly, his or her infected fluids will be trapped in the mask and will not infect others.

The writer goes on to try and sell you an audio seminar and seriously suggest people invest in gas masks, but hey, at least the first half of the article made sense.

(via @Matt_Alt)

14 thoughts on “N95 masks could help prevent you from spreading H1N1, but won’t prevent it”

  1. Masks convey the energetic spirit of the pure soul cooperating with those around us in wonderful harmony. It’s the intention that counts. よいしょ!よいしょ! :-0

    I suppose you already knew that.

  2. So a kid walks into the health office at my workplace. The health office has a GIANT stop sign outside it that says “If you think you have the flu, put on a mask before entering” and a bin full of free masks. The kid says he thinks he has the flu. Receptionist tells him to go get a mask and then come back. Kid goes and comes back. Receptionist tells the kid that the face mask goes over his mouth and nose, not his eyes.

  3. If a mask keeps people from spreading the flu, then it protects me, too. That some people happen to wear masks for selfish rather than altruistic purposes does not stop them from being effective for the latter.
    In fact, people in Japan often wear masks when then have a cold or allergy. The reasons are generally twofold, (1) to keep from sneezing and coughing on others and (2) for their own comfort. Since they already have a cold, they are not trying to protect themselves.

  4. C’mon, beating up on the use of masks is old hat.

    The real news is the Daikin air conditioner that can ghostbust particles of airborne swine flu in your house!


    If they have this technology, why not build huge particle guns atop every high rise in the city and just blast every last trace of the virus back to hell?

  5. Yeah, Wataru is right. Not that there aren’t many folks who think that masks work both ways, but it’s not just about protecting yourself. Your anti-mask demagoguery threatens to undermine that very consideration for others that makes Japan great!

  6. The main reason the CDC keeps telling people over and over again to wash their hands is that main entry point for the influenza virus is via the nostrils. Most people touch there noses quite often without being aware that they are doing so. While wearing simple surgical masks may not filter out airborne viruses effectively it does help prevent people from picking, scratching, or otherwise caressing their nostrils.

    I’ve heard that active influenza virus can live on hand rails and other surfaces for well over 24 hours in the right conditions. Keeping a mask on in a public environment is good a reminder when you get home to give your hands an extra scrubbing and definitely makes it more challenging digging for golden nuggets when out and about.

  7. how much money is the mask industry worth ?
    And can you wear a mask with an eye patch
    and drive a vehicle ?

  8. Good points about face-touching and consideration. I don’t have anything against consideration for others, but actually I’d prefer it if Japanese people directed their kindness toward areas where it actually mattered, such as watching where the hell you’re going when you walk through a train station. Can’t tell you the number of near-collisions I deal with going to and from work.


    Those are two excellent questions.

    According to the Nikkei, Hakugen, the biggest mask maker, has more than tripled annual capacity to a potential 500 million masks in preparation for the flu epidemic. At a retail price of 3150 yen per set of 30 masks, that’s sales of 52.5 billion yen or 1.5x the company’s total sales in fiscal 2008. The broader mask industry is likely several times the size of this company’s mask business, so imagine billions of masks produced so each person in Japan has access to a few dozen. Before the flu outbreak ramped up public fears, one could imagine capacity in general was about one-third this level.

    As for that second one, I haven’t tried it and don’t think I will. Please let us know if you figure it out.

    Nikkei (sub. reqd)


  9. Adamu,
    I’m with you about the “consideration” thing. In 11+ years I’ve yet to notice that Japanese on the street are any more or less considerate than people anywhere else I’ve been. “Consideration” may manifest itself differently here, but it’s hardly unique.

    I like you’re thinking!

  10. “The broader mask industry is likely several times the size of this company’s mask business, so imagine billions of masks produced so each person in Japan has access to a few dozen.”

    I can imagine that the health workers who actually need to wear masks probably go through several every day though, right?

  11. @Peter: I have one of those “virus washer” machines at home now, and I’m also sneezing a lot more lately.

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