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Coronavirus diary – Part 38

By Sylvester Odion Akhaine
23 December 2020   |   3:06 am
This installment addresses the face mask and its discontent. Wearing of face mask in times of pandemic could be traced to early 1900, especially the Spanish Flu of 1918-19.

…CDC Director says we could lose as many as another 200,000 people between now and the end of the year. And he said, if we just wear a mask, we can save half those numbers. Just a mask.—Joe Biden

This installment addresses the face mask and its discontent. Wearing of face mask in times of pandemic could be traced to early 1900, especially the Spanish Flu of 1918-19. It is agreed that masks, to a great extent, can help prevent the spread of COVID-19. President-Elect, Joe Biden of the United States emphasised this point in his first presidential debate where he re-echoed the Centre for Disease Control’s position that wearing a mask could mitigate COVID-19 fatalities in the United States.

Therefore, in this piece, I look at the health benefits of wearing of face mask and the attendant risk of hypoxia. In this present endeavour, I draw from the insights offered by both Dr. Alberto Rizzo (in an interview conducted by Emily Henderson of news-medical on June 3, 2020) and John C. Manley. Dr. Rizzo is the Chief Medical Officer for the American Lung Association and practices pulmonary/sleep medicine at the Christiana Care Health System in Newark, Delaware while Manley is a contributor to the Canadian-based Global Research, and publisher of the email-based newsletter, COVID-19(84) Red Pill Briefs that is dedicated to preventing state violation of human rights under the pretext of COVID-19. 
Wearing a mask in times of COVID-19 has its advantages. Dr. Beng Goh, Emeritus consultant physician, Royal London Hospital, waxes lyrical on the usefulness of mask in preventing COVID-19 infection. As he puts it, “COVID-19 is spread from aerosols (tiny viral particles); we breathe in aerosols in crowded places like trains, buses, and the tube, and we touch our face inadvertently numerous times with potentially infected hands. Masks will protect against this and will be even more crucial when we ease the lockdown to prevent a resurgence of cases.”

Hannah Devlin in her piece in the UK Guardian titled, “Can a face mask protect me from coronavirus? COVID-19 myths busted” supplies a caveat. She argues that “Wearing a face mask is certainly not an iron-clad guarantee that you won’t get sick – viruses can also transmit through the eyes and tiny viral particles, known as aerosols, can penetrate masks. However, masks are effective at capturing droplets, which is a main transmission route of coronavirus.”

According to her, some studies have affirmed the effectiveness of the use of masks than not. Therefore, she advises that “If you are likely to be in close contact with someone infected, a mask cuts the chance of the disease being passed on. If you’re showing symptoms of coronavirus, or have been diagnosed, wearing a mask can also protect others. So masks are crucial for the health and social care workers looking after patients and are also recommended for family members who need to care for someone who is ill – ideally, both the patient and carer should have a mask.”

However, wearing a face mask has its own consequences. People who wear a face mask are breathing in their own carbon dioxide resulting in hypoxia, i.e., shortness of breath because the mask reduces oxygen intake thereby distressing the body. As noted by Rashid Ali Buttar, an American physician, “physiological stress of trying to suck oxygen through a mask” causes the body to go into “a sympathomimetic state, into a stress state, into a flight fight response, which spikes cortisol and cortisol suppresses the immune system so your lymphocytes subpopulation goes down which makes you not susceptible to any pathogen bacteria virus spark its microbial yeast whatever.”

Buttar further notes that when you breathe, “you’re breathing in the components off of the facemask; remember that the people that are dying of COVID-19 that seem to have an altitude type sickness, they seem to have a hypoxic injury while there’s a histotoxic hypoxic injury that’s described in the medical literature that actually happens from the toxicity of the lungs. So when you’re breathing in from this mask there [are] various types of components that the mask is made from like plastics and propylene components when you’re breathing that in the humidity breaks that component down and you’re inhaling these toxic substances; Now further making your immune system more susceptible. That’s just from the initial portion of the mask.”

Curiously, Dr. Rizzo points to what he calls silent hypoxia, that is, “when a pulse oximetry check on a patient who does not appear to be short of breath, results in an oximetry finding lower than a physician would expect.” He further explains that “The term silent comes from the fact that the patient does not appear to be short of breath. They are not gasping, they do not have an increase in their respiratory rate, and they are not complaining of feeling air hunger or looking uncomfortable.” This is the obverse of the case when “Most individuals, when their oxygen levels start to drop into the eighties or lower, will feel air hunger and start to breathe more rapidly and feel uncomfortable…Breathing tends to be a very natural, easy thing for us to do. But when the oxygen level drops to that level, most individuals will have a sense of what is called dyspnea, or shortness of breath.” As earlier mentioned, this is a result of “both the low oxygen level, as well as a high carbon dioxide level.”

A dodgy aspect of silent hypoxia is that the shortness of breath affects other vital organs of the body without an immediate impact on the lungs due to its non-registration in the brain. Interestingly, Dr. Rizzo notes that “oxygen levels can drop for other reasons besides COVID-19 such as blood clots, other types of infection, or cardiac issues that can develop.” Truly, the danger with hypoxia is great because “As soon as the saturation does drop, other organs of the body are put at risks, such as the heart, the kidneys, the brain, and the liver. We need to prevent other organ damage, which happens if support is not given and the low oxygen level is not corrected.”

Manley adds a frightening dimension to the use of the mask.

In his piece titled “Medical Doctor warns that ‘Bacterial Pneumonias are on the rise’ from mask-wearing”, published in the Global Research on November 24, 2020, presents the warning of Dr. James Meehan that mask-wearing has “well-known risks that have been well-studied and they’re not being discussed in the risk analysis….I’m seeing patients that have facial rashes, fungal infections, bacterial infections.

Reports coming from my colleagues, all over the world, are suggesting that bacterial pneumonia are on the rise…Why might that be? Because untrained members of the public are wearing medical masks, repeatedly… in a non-sterile fashion… They’re becoming contaminated. They’re pulling them off of their car seat, off the rearview mirror, out of their pocket, from their countertop, and they’re reapplying a mask that should be worn fresh and sterile every single time.”

Dr. Meehan points to new research that shows “that cloth masks may be increasing the aerosolization of the SARS-COV-2 virus into the environment causing an increased transmission of the disease….” The concern is underlined by the information on litigation by a group that is suing Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum and Tulsa Health Department Executive Director Bruce Dart, on grounds that “the city’s mask mandate is harmful to healthy people.” This is reminiscent of the Anti-Mask League in the United States during the Spanish Flu pandemic. The next installment will focus on COVID-19 and Christmas celebration. 

Akhaine is a Professor of Political Science at the Lagos State University.


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