Thursday, 30 April 2009

To keep things in, or to keep things out?

I just read an article explaining why wearing surgical masks won't really help the spread of the flu:

"Infectious disease specialist Dr. Andrew Simor said surgical masks are recommended for staff in the close confines of hospitals and long-term care centres to prevent transmission of flu viruses and other microbes from patients to care providers.

The risk of health-care workers contracting influenza from an infected patient is increased because of prolonged close contact and medical procedures that may cause the patient "to cough and splutter all over you," said Simor of Toronto's Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre.

But when it comes to the public at large, wearing masks would have little benefit, he said. "Those things don't happen as you're sort of going about your daily business buying groceries or watching a movie." " [1]

What struck me is the unquestioned assumption that people should wear masks to protect themselves. After living three years in Taiwan, I got used to people wearing surgical masks everywhere when they are sick; the obvious purpose being to prevent others from being infected... Even in my school, it's not unusual to see a few students wear a mask all day long.

The two questions that I'm now wondering are: if sick people were the ones wearing the masks, would that help the slow down of the epidemic? And why are Taiwanese so oblivious to others when they drive, but so considerate when they're sick?

  1. LifeStyle from Yahoo <>

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