face masks history

What role do face masks play? Is their widespread use by the population really helping to contain the contagion? How were face masks first developed and why? Let's try to give accurate information and answer these simple but important questions; to do so, we use the support of an in

Written Thursday, by Emanuele Mortarotti

Another appointment with Dispotech news. This week our blog is inevitably linked to events regarding the Coronavirus and its spreading in Italy.

What role do face masks play? Is their widespread use by the population really helping to contain the contagion? How were face masks first developed and why? Let's try to give accurate information and answer these simple but important questions; to do so, we use the support of an interesting article published on nytimes.com.

 

We can safely say this without fear of being contradicted: the arrival of the Coronavirus in Europe has created an unprecedented psychosis effect. Not only hand sanitisers and hand disinfectant solutions, but also face masks, have literally sold like hotcakes in pharmacies and shops. This object used to protect both mouth and nose, usually easily and readily available, has now become a real "object of desire". The production demand for face masks has increased enormously: according to Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of the World Health Organization, demand is 100 times higher than normal and prices are 20 times higher than normal. Incredible numbers when you think that face masks are not, in fact, considered useful tools to stop the contagion - washing your hands is much more effective.

 

The use of masks is a common practice in Asian countries, a cultural fact. Probably everyone has seen videos, news reports, movies and noticed that almost everyone wears a face mask. Some people do it to protect themselves from smog, others to contain  the effects of seasonal flu. This is because, for oriental people, wearing masks is first and foremost a behaviour dictated by politeness and solidarity towards anyone going through a period of "unstable" health.

Anti-epidemic face masks were introduced in China about a century ago by doctor Wu Lien-teh, who was asked by the Chinese government to intervene in response to an epidemic outbreak of a pulmonary plague. Wu, after demonstrating that the infectious disease was airborne, developed the first face masks, making some modifications to the classic model used by surgeons. Dr. Wu asked the medical staff, infected patients and people close to them to wear face masks. In the end, Wu’s intuition turned out to be correct: despite the fact that the pulmonary plague killed so many people, the use of face masks significantly reduced the contagion - reducing the number of deaths.

Together with the face mask not only a very important protective device was born, but also a symbol: China was definitively establishing itself as a leading country in the medical sector.

 

It was the 2002 SARS virus that definitively changed the habits of East Asian people.  Since then, face masks have been widely used in the East - both to protect against air pollution and to contain the spread of viruses. Chinese and Asian people in general consider wearing face masks an act of solidarity and respect towards their community; a very civilised gesture bringing people together during times when fear and psychosis can easily take over.

 

What do you think about this article? Contact Dispotech and have your say!

Emanuele Mortarotti
Author Emanuele Mortarotti

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