Could Face Masks Be Spreading the Coronavirus?

I used to wonder how the Salem Witch Trials could have happened.  I don't anymore.

With the "Karens" (male and female) going hysterical in this viral panic, I clearly understand now why it's said, "if you think education is expensive, try ignorance."  Ignorance, or maybe better put, a lack of knowledge, sets up the American people to be exploited by their own politicians and government officials.  But, relative to a pathogen, it also sets them up to become disease transport agents via a mandated fomite: the face mask.

For those not familiar with the term "fomite," it's a non-biological object contaminated with a pathogen, making the article a source for spreading the pathogen.  For me, this viral panic has made it evident that most people have no understanding of viruses, their life cycles, and how they propagate.  The fear of the unknown is the outgrowth of this lack of knowledge.  It leads people to take irrational actions that will spread a pathogen.

Here we are in the 21st century, and the general public is no smarter than the general public was in the 17th century when it comes to dealing with the unknown.  So let's look at a pathogenic event in the early 20th century.

In 1918, we had the Spanish Flu (also known as the Spanish Fever).  The medical world was in the initial discovery phase of a theory.  The ability to actually see a virus would not come about until the invention of the electron microscope in the late 1930s.  Viruses are at least 100 times smaller than bacteria.  I suspect that the medical profession believed that this outbreak was the result of an unknown, tiny bacterium that could not be seen with a microscope.  After all, the Bubonic Plague was bacterial.

So what were people asked to do?  Wear cloth face masks with five to six layers of gauze.

Let's think about that period in our history.  A large number of children died before the age of five.  The average age of death for adults was much lower than it is today.  The education of the general population was minimal.  Sanitation and personal hygiene also left a lot to be desired.  With face mask hygiene not defined, I have a deep suspicion that contaminated face masks helped spread the virus.

Once upon a time, I was a U.S. Army surgical technician.  Part of my training was in face mask hygiene and sterile technique.  In 1966, in an evacuation hospital in Korea, I would do a rotation in intensive care dealing with infectious disease cases.  Later, in college, I majored in biology, which included microbiology.  Because of this background, I view the world differently from how most do as it pertains to the transmission of disease.  So imagine my shock when I went grocery shopping after this viral panic hit.  Here were people with face masks and nitrile gloves — their hands all over their face masks, pulling them up and down, rubbing their eyes.  They played with their smartphones, touched everything in the store, and acted as if they came from the planet Krypton.  Holy moly!  This store was full of potential Typhoid Marys.

So now, here we are months later.  Has anything changed with these folks?  No.  Even more unsettling, the experts appear to be grasping at straws, adding more confusion to an already confused populace.  One of those straws: face masks.

There have been many discussions about face masks here on American Thinker.  I'm going to take a different path in that discussion.

In June of 2018, five researchers published a study titled "The Spread of a Norovirus Surrogate via Reusable Grocery Bags in a Grocery Supermarket."  What they analyzed was the possible spread of a norovirus via reusable grocery bags.  Think "bring your own bag" (BYOB).  They used a viral surrogate, a virus that infected only bacteria, and contaminated reusable bags with it and had volunteers shop at three grocery stores.  The result?  They demonstrated that the viral surrogate in the bags was spread throughout the stores, with specific areas of high concentration.

So now, in 2020, here's my concern: we may have virus-contaminated face masks worn by people with absolutely no concept of face mask hygiene and viral contamination.  They are unwitting agents for spreading this pathogen.  Is anyone looking at this?  If so, I'm not aware.  I'd say the time is right to conduct an experiment modeled on the BYOB experiment.  Researchers should use face masks contaminated with a viral surrogate.  Then have volunteers wearing them shopping in grocery stores as they usually would.  And then assess if that viral surrogate can be spread through the contaminated face masks worn by these untrained individuals.  I suspect that the transmission path is from the contaminated face mask to the hands.

Until this is determined, we'll never know.  After all, the BYOB as a fomite never crossed anyone's mind until five researchers asked, "What if?"

From 1900 to 1907, Mary Mallon, better known to the world as Typhoid Mary, would unknowingly infect at least 53 people with Typhoid.  It's believed she was born with it because her mother had contracted it during her pregnancy.  Through no fault of her own, she became a disease-carrier.  Here we are in 2020.  The uninformed population is being mandated to wear face masks.  The potential for them becoming, through no fault of their own, disease-carriers is enormous.  It's time to ask the question, "What if?"

J.H. Capron is an author and writer living in the Hudson Valley of N.Y. and still has an interest in medicine.

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