It is a little known fact that, as World War I was coming to an end, people were being fined or arrested in American cities if they were caught in public without a protective mask during the height of the Spanish flu.
This is a period in history that many Americans are unaware of as it was overshadowed by the war, but given how quickly communicable viruses can spread today, it is a time we should learn from.
The Spanish Influenza, the deadliest flu pandemic in history, quickly spread across the world and infected an estimated 500 million people globally, killing some 20-50 million people in its wake, with estimates running as high 100 million victims. In just one year, 1918, the average life expectancy in America plummeted by a dozen years and more U.S. soldiers died from the Spanish flu than were killed in battle during the war.1
Influenza is a highly contagious virus that attacks the respiratory system. “When an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks, respiratory droplets are generated and transmitted into the air, and can then can be inhaled by anyone nearby.”1 The only known way to protect yourself from respiratory droplets is the use of an effective germ barrier mask.
It may seem strange to imagine a world where wearing a protective mask becomes as necessary and normal as wearing gloves, sunscreen, or a bike helmet, but there are historical events which prove that such a world becomes a reality when a pandemic hits and airborne germs are easily transmitted amongst the population. In the modern age where global travel allows people to be almost anywhere in a day, there is real reason to be concerned about the news that a new Coronavirus is spreading from China, with cases already confirmed in other countries and airport quarantines occurring in North America.
If you have to be at an airport or flying this time of year, it is important to adopt the practice of wearing a proper protective mask and washing your hands regularly to reduce your exposure to influenza viruses. According to a 2015 Healthline article, “When it comes to the flu, prevention is still the best method of keeping yourself safe from this highly contagious virus. A facemask may offer added protection against getting sick. There are no known risks to wearing these devices [for most], except for the cost of buying them. Masks do seem promising, but it’s also important to utilize other preventive measures, too. Make sure you wash your hands often during flu season — especially if you’re around others who may be sick. Also, be sure to get your annual flu shot to protect yourself and others from spreading the virus.”2
As more reports come out about the spread of Coronavirus, it is important we take responsible action to reduce our chances of contracting it or other flu viruses this winter. What may seem like a problem in another part of the world “today” has been historically proven to be a problem for public health in American cities soon after. Keeping an effective protective mask handy will help you and those you care for stay safe from contracting the virus until it is better contained.
About the Author: Bruce Lorange is the Founder of O2TODAY, a team of public health crusaders, designers, scientists, and product development enthusiasts that believe everyone should have the right to breathe clean and healthy air. O2TODAY makes protective masks with premium filters that reduce exposure to poor air quality for your health “today” while supporting efforts towards creating a cleaner “tomorrow” where its products will no longer be necessary and is a member of 1% For The Planet.