Face masks could make a comeback amid the holiday ‘triple epidemic’ of covid, flu and RSV

Face masks could make a comeback amid the holiday ‘triple epidemic’ of covid, flu and RSV

With three highly contagious respiratory viruses sickening adults and children across the country and holiday gatherings just weeks away, public health officials are starting to talk about face masks again.

While masks are unlikely to be introduced in much of the country, health experts are renewing recommendations to wear a high-quality medical mask on public transport, in airports and airplanes, while shopping and in other crowded public places.

What’s important is that the recommendations for masks this time are not just about avoidance coronavirus. Masks are recommended to protect against what is being called a “triple epidemic” – a combination of flu, coronavirus and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) that is already straining hospitals and forcing parents absent from work in record numbers.

As the country enters its third pandemic winter, cases of covid-19 are on the rise, and the 2022-23 flu season. the worst in a decade — there have already been 4,500 flu deaths, including 14 children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

With such a heavy burden of disease weighing on the healthcare system, it may be hard to believe that something as simple as a face mask could make a significant difference. But health experts say a quality medical mask – such as an N95, KN95 or KF94 – remains a very effective line of defence, especially when combined with vaccinations, hand washing, better ventilation and avoiding crowds.

“Masks will help reduce your risk from all respiratory viruses, not just covid,” said Jay K. Varma, an internal medicine physician, epidemiologist and professor of population health sciences at Weill Cornell Medical School. “These must be masks of adequate quality that are worn consistently and correctly. Even a very small percentage increase in mask wearing when multiplied by a large population can have a big impact.”

We talked to several public health experts about why a face mask might be your best vacation accessory this winter. Here’s what they had to say.

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