(AscendHealthy.com) – Regardless of how anyone feels about the widespread use of face masks, covering up has become a common part of life in many countries. COVID-19 has held the spotlight for the better part of the year, leaving influenza and seasonal colds on the sidelines, but these viruses are all still actively circulating the globe.
The Southern Hemisphere has survived its 2020 winter, and now the flu is on its way back up north — but this year, we might actually be ready for it. Let’s take a look at what impact face masks may have on flu prevention.
We know that face masks can help prevent the spread of COVID-19, but up until recently, we didn’t have any info on how they affected the cold and flu season. With the colder months (and their seasonal viruses) leaving the Southern Hemisphere, researchers are looking at recent findings to predict how the United States and other countries in the Northern Hemisphere will fare this fall and winter. Here’s what they found.
See How Face Masks Might Help With the Flu, Too.
Studies on Influenza
Like COVID-19, the flu is caused by a virus that enters the body via inhaled droplets or contaminated hands touching the eyes, nose or mouth. The CDC explains that, because influenza transmission occurs as the result of infected people breathing, coughing or sneezing more copies of the virus into the air, masks are likely to protect people against the flu transmission as well as it does against the coronavirus.
People who do catch the seasonal virus can become contagious about one day before symptoms appear, so they can do a lot of viral shedding before there’s any indication they need to isolate. In addition, children and people with compromised immune systems can continue shedding the virus long after they recover. All of these people might look and feel flu-free, but they’re infecting people everywhere they go if they aren’t wearing masks.
Reports From Australia
Australia is in the Southern Hemisphere, which means it experiences fall and winter when the United States is enjoying spring and summer. Seasonal viruses like influenza tend to move with the colder weather, which means Australia’s flu season occurs while we’re all off soaking in the summer fun here. So, while we’re gearing up for the arrival of seasonal viruses, Australia just finished saying its farewells for the year.
Researchers have looked at Australia to predict what the 2020 flu season will look like in the United States and other countries in the Northern Hemisphere. Turns out the Land Down Under had record-low influenza rates this year. New Scientist reports that other factors, like social distancing and closed schools, also probably contributed to the lower numbers, but experts are pointing at mask use as another biggie.
Many of us have been dreading the possibility of being slammed by the cold and flu season on top of COVID-19, but this year might not be as bad as we’ve feared. If we follow Australia’s trends, we could be in for a surprisingly mild year. That is, if we all continue to wear our masks!
~Here’s to Your Healthy Ascension
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