Sunday, May 10, 2009

The world after H1N1

Early last week, I took a plane for the first time since the H1N1 flu alert had started.

After sitting in the plane I noticed I was followed by 10 or 15 young people wearing masks. We were just about to leave Madrid; I suppose these young passengers were connecting from Mexico. The scene reminded me of Japan, where social and hygienic values want people to wear masks as soon as they start caughing or sneezing. In Tokyo metro in winter, for example, you see a lot of people wearing masks in order to protect neighbouring passengers.

I'm wondering if the H1N1 story marks the beginning of new times where people in the whole world will be required to wear masks à la Japan as soon as they catch a cold.

If people accept [and public health authorities demand] to wear masks against H1N1, why not against any kind of influenza or other germs transmissible through breathing?

Will people near me want to change seat in the metro next winter if I sneeze without a mask? Will they reprimend me? Or call the police?

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