ATLANTA — ATLANTA— A milder than usual flu season has some suggesting that masks may become a more popular sight in future years.
There have been moments throughout our history when flu outbreaks have at least temporarily popularized face coverings. In Japan, masks are part of the daily culture, especially during flu and allergy season.
“It’s part of the culture in these places that if you know you have an infection, you cover your face with a mask to prevent yourself from sharing with others,” Dr. John Brooks, of the CDC, explained.
There are studies that suggest in certain situations, masks could help slow the spread of the yearly flu.
The COVID-19 pandemic changed the look of America.
“We’ve had a giant national experiment and Americans have learned how to wear masks,” Dr. Brooks said.
While there are differences, the flu and the coronavirus are both transmitted by droplets.
A big difference is that someone with COVID-19 can spread the virus when they’re not feeling sick and don’t realize they have it. That’s typically not the case with the flu.
“The conventional wisdom is when you’re not having a fever, it’s not going to be transmitted to other people,” said Dr. Adam Chen of the University of Georgia’s College of Public Health. “It’s not contagious According to the CDC, someone with the flu is most contagious in the first three to four days after feeling sick.
During times of heightened flu activity, the CDC does recommend masks for anyone who shows symptoms of the flu until they’re isolated as well as for healthcare workers dealing with flu patients.
Dr. Brooks suspects that some people may choose to wear masks during future flu seasons.
“We may begin to see next year among populations that are very vulnerable, the staff and residents in a nursing home for instance might wear masks during flu season,” Dr. Brooks hypothesized. “I think there’s going to be less hesitancy to use masks.”
Healthcare experts continue to promote vaccines as the best way to avoid illness during flu season, along with hand washing and covering the nose and mouth whenever you cough or sneeze.