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Face Masks Don't Cause Bacterial Infection, They Prevent Spread of COVID-19

Studies show that wearing face masks protected people against bacterial infections in hospital settings.

Published
WebQoof
4 min read
Face Masks Don't Cause Bacterial Infection, They Prevent Spread of COVID-19
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(Before you read this, here's a personal appeal. Our vaccine misinformation project targeting rural women in the states of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, and Assam is high on costs and resources. Please support this special project, so we can continue to tell stories that matter. Thank you – Team WebQoof)

A news bulletin published on the Facebook page of an Assamese news portal called 24 Live, claimed that wearing face masks is harmful to one's health. The information was attributed to a person claiming to be Kolkata-based homeopathic doctor who went on to make several other misleading claims about COVID-19.

However, we found that the claims made by the doctor were false. There is no evidence to prove that wearing mask poses any kind of health risk in a healthy individual. Moreover, we found a study that said that wearing face masks protected people against bacterial infections in hospital settings.

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CLAIM

The caption of the news bulletin said, "The amount of bacteria in an underwear is equal to the amount of bacteria in a mask."

In the video, the Dr Rajesh Rai says that wearing a face mask for 15 minutes accumulates the same amount of bacteria as wearing an underwear for a few hours.

<div class="paragraphs"><p>An archive of the post can be found <a href="https://perma.cc/F6PJ-LTMP">here</a>.</p></div>

An archive of the post can be found here.

(Source: Facebook/Screenshot)

The doctor also makes other false claims about COVID-19 that have been debunked in the past such as COVID-19 is a hoax and a way to depopulate the world orchestrated by the Bill Gates foundation, WHO and Johns Hopkins University.

The Facebook page of 24 Live has 6,16,470 followers and the first video published in Assamese language had been viewed over 4,000 times while this story was being written.

The claim was also shared as a Hindi bulletin on the same news channel and some other users shared it too.

WHAT WE FOUND OUT

Some of the claims made by the doctor have been debunked several times by fact-checkers around the world. He also mentioned some oft-repeated conspiracy theories such as "COVID-19 is a hoax".

He refers to the pandemic as a "plandemic", orchestrated by organisations like the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, the World Health organisation and Johns Hopkins univerity.

Mis/disinformation about masks have also been shared in the past and The Quint's WebQoof team has debunked some of the claims such as "mask reduces oxygen level in the body" and "mask carry worms that would infect people".

Similarly, the claim that masks carry bacteria and is harmful to one's health is also misleading.

While it is true that bacteria does build up in a mask after prolonged use, the claim that it is harmful for one's health is misleading.

A study conducted at the University of Antwerp in Belgium found that "bacteria accumulates on both surgical and more so on cotton face masks after four hours of wearing."

The study mentions that any kind of harm from the bacteria build-up can be avoided by using clean masks, disposing the surgical masks after four hours of intensive use and cleaning cotton masks properly before reusing.

The study recommends wearing surgical masks if one has to wear masks for a long time and also suggests ways to clean cotton face masks to maintain proper hygiene. The study recommends "boiling the cloth mask at 100°C, washing at 60°C with detergent, and ironing using a steam iron."
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Health Desk, a COVID-19 resource for journalists made available by health experts, said that "there is no evidence to suggest that the use of face masks increases the risk of developing pneumonia, or any other bacterial, fungal or viral infection in the lungs."

On the contrary, a study conducted in Australia and published in the Preventive Medicine journal, found that wearing face masks protected people against bacterial infections in hospital settings - where they might be exposed to antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Evidently, the claim that wearing masks for a long period of time is harmful to one's health is false. Health authorities around the world, including the Ministry of Health of Family Welfare in India have recommended wearing a face mask to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

People who have been diagnosed with severe asthma or have difficulty in breathing should speak with a doctor about wearing the mask.

(This story has been published as a part of The Quint’s COVID-19 fact-check project targeting rural women. It was flagged to us by our partner organisation Radio Brahmaputra.)

(Not convinced of a post or information you came across online and want it verified? Send us the details on WhatsApp at 9643651818, or e-mail it to us at webqoof@thequint.com and we'll fact-check it for you. You can also read all our fact-checked stories here.)

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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