Hyderabad: A series of social media posts widely circulated in August 2020 claimed that Legionnaires' disease, respiratory infection and a type of pneumonia, could be contracted from reused face masks worn to protect against COVID-19.
A post on Facebook reads, "Wash your mask. Wake up!!! A caller to a radio talk show recently shared that his wife was hospitalized and told she had COVID and only a couple of days left to live. A doctor friend suggested she be tested for legionnaires disease because she wore the same mask every day all day long. Turns out it WAS legionnaires disease from the moisture and bacteria in her mask. She was given antibiotics and within two days was better. WHAT IF these "spikes" in COVID are really something else due to improper mask-wearing."
Although the origin of this false claim is unknown it first appeared on a Facebook page named 'Setting The Record Straight Michigan'. This false news was then circulated widely on different social media platforms.
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The claim of contracting Legionnaires' Disease because of reusing masks to protect from COVID-19 is FALSE.
Legionnaires' Disease is a lung infection that is transmitted by breathing in infected water droplets. It does not spread from person-to-person nor do the bacteria survive on dry surfaces.
According to Legionella, a nonprofit organization that shares educational material and scientific research about the disease, Legionnaires' is not contagious and cannot be transmitted by infected persons or their masks.
However, as noted by Legionella, if a person was diagnosed with this disease, it would not be an outcome of wearing a mask. Water with the legionella bacteria must be directly inhaled or drank by a person to be infected. As such, a mask would need to come into direct contact with contaminated water for it to be inhaled.
"Your mask would not be a source of transmission for the Legionella bacteria," wrote the organization on its website.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ( CDC) as well, Legionnaires' disease is spread mostly by breathing in mist from infected water sources, which are usually warm and stagnant and recommends wearing a mask.
Dr Janet Stout, President and Director of the Special Pathogens Laboratory, told Fact Check.Org that people cannot get this disease from wearing a face mask. The bacteria would not be present in saliva, so there is no way for moisture from a person's spit to cause Legionnaires' disease. "You are safe to wear a mask," Stout said.
The precaution against the novel coronavirus is to wear a mask to protect oneself and people are advised to wash reusable masks to maintain hygiene.
Therefore, about wearing masks and Legionnaires' disease, there is no connection, thus proving the claim FALSE.
This fact check has been published as part of the Internews Information Saves Lives: Rapid Response Fund project to NewsMeter