As flu season comes upon us, it is an ongoing question if the United States should make masks a requirement to help prevent influenza.
During 2020, influenza cases in the U.S. were at an all time low. Influenza A and B travel through the air, which a mask could prevent, but in some cases, you may get the flu from touching objects with germs on it. Many believe the reason for the flu cases being so low in 2020 is because masks were required, then later in 2021 the cases rose again possibly due to the mask mandate being lifted.
“Healthcare workers are recommended to wear masks thus the patients should also wear masks due to close contact. Around the time of seasonal outbreaks of influenza, if you don’t wear a mask you should at least get vaccinated to prevent getting the flu,” says Jenine Gardner, a nurse who works with pulmonary and infectious diseases at the VA Medical Center in Martinsburg.
Workers in healthcare really were able to see the effects of masks on these illnesses, from being around sick people and hopefully not getting sick. Masks are proven to be helpful in preventing the flu however, wearing a mask can make people forget about personal hygiene and how important that is to not get sick.
“We know from the last two years definitively that masks help prevent the spread of COVID,” said Jeremy Fairchild, an employee at The Woods Golf Courses in Hedgesville. “Since the flu is transmitted exactly the same way, airborne droplets, masks also vastly help prevent the spread of the flu. The reported cases of the flu during COVID were drastically down from previous years due to widespread mask usage. There was undoubtedly some misreporting of the flu during these years but even accounting for that, the flu was at historic lows.”
Masks were a factor in the flu cases in 2020 being so low, but bigger factors could have included everyone staying home, and many restaurants closing to in-person dining. Before the pandemic, respiratory illnesses that tested positive for the flu totaled on average 30% of all respiratory illnesses. During the pandemic, the respiratory illnesses that tested positive for the flu were only 0.2%. There was also a record of flu vaccines distributed in the 2020-2021 flu season. Many believe that masks are the only factor in staying healthy, while others believe that masks should be completely gone.
“I don’t think masks should be required during flu season because I think it is important for us as humans to develop natural immunity to viruses. By wearing a mask, you are ultimately hurting yourself and your immune system by making it weak. If you are older or have a weak immune system, sure, wear a mask but it shouldn’t be part of everyday wear attire,” states Michael Gunter, an HVAC technician who works around Martinsburg.
When you expose the body to germs like this it will produce antibodies to fight off the sickness. These antibodies can help you throughout your life to not get you sick.
Masks, vaccinations, or nothing can all help you in different ways to not get sick.