Monday, September 14, 2009
Reporter Humorously Wears "Flu Armour," NY Times Covers Masks...
The New York Times featured dual articles on (extreme) flu preventative measures on the 11th and 14th of September. Ariel Kammer went around New York in Flu Armour for a day to gauge reactions from her fellow New Yorkers. As we saw with the presentation by Mark Liao, it is increasingly common to see people walking around wearing masks, so I didn't know what sort of reactions she would get. Kammer bought a kit from Flu Armour, a New Jersey company and took to New York City, rather comically eating out, riding the subway, etc. The Pandemic Emergency Defense system cost $69 and included 20 masks, 50 glove pairs, goggles, hand wipes and disinfectant wipes. A separate white paper jumpsuit cost $6.75. While these articles focus on the ineffectiveness of flimsy surgical masks, they doesn't note anything about N95 masks, which Dr. Sara Cody mentioned and Mark Liao spoke extensively about.
I think it would be an interesting study into the psychology of New Yorkers to examine the variety of reactions. While Kammer states most people avoided her eye contact, like passengers on a subway, and many people walked by without even cracking a smile, some people did stare, criticize, OR ask where they too could purchase these products. Clearly, paranoia has its place in the flu epidemic. Yet, these drastic measures really aren't necessary, as comments from Dr. Farley, NYC's city health commissioner indicate. Wearing a mask and gloves are only valuable if one is taking care of a relative or friend with the flu, in a situation of consistent close proximity.
The article affirms something Mark told us. While there is a common misconception that surgical masks will help prevent inhalation of the flu: “Surgical masks are designed to trap respiratory secretions (including bacteria and viruses) expelled by the wearer and prevent disease transmission to others,” the study authors wrote. “Surgical masks are not designed to prevent inhalation of airborne particles.” So really, you should wear the surgical masks if you already have the flu, not to prevent them. Researchers from University of Melbourne did find that those who wore a mask and coughed into petri dishes didn't grow viruses in them, but found that the mask did not stop inhalation of particles. That is simply not what surgical masks are designed to do.
I thought it was most fascinating to see how something we talked about in class so recently now is in the national news in a less-detailed, more approachable fashion for the everyday non-poxstars.
Posted by Tangelo at 1:33 PM