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Do mask-wearers risk respiratory infections?

A 2015 report from the British Medical Journal highlighted the health risks of wearing cloth masks for prolonged periods on a daily basis. In a BMJ Open study of 1607 care workers, the highest rate of infection was among (non-medical) cloth mask-wearers. It also noted that "penetration of cloth masks by particles was almost 97%".

The study expressed "caution against the use of cloth masks" and explained that "moisture retention, reuse of cloth masks and poor filtration may result in increased risk of infection. Further research is needed to inform the widespread use of cloth masks globally."

Although the World Health Organisation has changed its position on masks many times Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said:

"People can infect themselves if they use contaminated hands to adjust a mask or repeatedly take it on or off,” he warned "I cannot say this clearly enough. Masks alone will not protect you from COVID-19."

In Germany, where schools are open and masks are mostly optional, the association of Kinder f.Weltfrieden eV commissioned a laboratory analysis to investigate the level of microbial contamination that results after a fresh mask is worn by a child for 6-8 hours in school. What they found was alarming to all those recommending we mask our children for several hours every day. The masks were found to be contaminated with 82 bacterial colonies and 4 mould colonies.

A study conducted in Bangkok on hospital workers found:

"High bacterial contamination on outside area of the used masks "

Yet another study on healthcare workers concluded:

"Respiratory pathogens on the outer surface of the used medical masks may result in self-contamination."

It's unclear what impact mask-wearing on a global scale may have on public health but it's a concern that has been pushed aside. There is a risk that mask mandates could lead to a silent epidemic of respiratory infections. What's more, these could also be misdiagnosed as Covid.

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