[LINK] Japanese face masks (was Re: Radiation)

Birch, Jim Jim.Birch at dhhs.tas.gov.au
Wed Mar 23 12:04:25 AEDT 2011

Fred said:
> Bizarre. From a public health POV surely that's creating an
immunocompromised population.

Not really.  For most of human history people lived in small groups
numbering like 50 or less individuals, with occasional interactions with
neighbouring clans.  Global transmission of virus variants may have
taken centuries, millennia, or just not happened at all.   Levels of
nutrition and cleanliness meant that people still got sick, they just
weren't subject to the barrage of novel pathogens that we get today.
The human immune system doesn't cope well with a steady stream of new
diseases.  It just ain't natural.  If you had to try every available
pathogen, you'd be dead, not protected.

People in isolated groups report an absence of what we consider normal
disease.  For example, the people who winter over in Antarctica report
that after a month, no one gets a cold until the next summer people and
disease influx.  A lot of common modern diseases, eg, TB, smallpox, are
thought to have come to humans when they began living with domesticated
animals.  The people who lived with these animals developed genetic
resistance to (the human versions of) these pathogens but they were
lethal when exported to places without domestic animals and no genetic

The primary biological immune strategy is keeping disease out of your
body.  Strategies include mucus membranes, stomach acids and, in some
places, face masks.  Once a pathogen gets in, it's down to much less
effective systems: genetic immunity if you're lucky, "razed earth, kill
everything" immune strategies, and the much slower adaptive immunity
which takes a week or two to get going.  Things like recirculating
aircon, congregating in numbers, air travel and so - basically, modern
life - place a radical new demand on the immune system.   I imagine that
one day things like unsanitised aircon - which has been shown to have a
significant impact on sick days taken - will have the same status as
open sewers and household cesspits.

- Jim 


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