This is something that has always fascinated me.
Originally posted on Quartz:
This item has been corrected.
On the 7 train that connects Manhattan to the bustling ethnic enclave of Flushing, Queens, it’s becoming more and more common to see riders wearing surgical masks in public. It’s a phenomenon that’s long been a common in East Asian countries. And ever since the 2002 SARS outbreak and the 2006 bird flu panic, the practice has crossed over into immigrant Asian populations in the US. Now, with Ebola fears still on high, many immigrant Asians aren’t taking chances—despite the fact that the number of known US Ebola infections has now dropped to zero, and assertions by public health authorities that Ebola is almost certainly not airborne-transmissible.
The reality is that the woven-cloth surgical masks provide minimal protection from environmental viruses anyway. (Surgeons use them to protect patients from their mouth-borne germs, not the other way around.) But the masks’ actual prophylactic utility…
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