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San Jose Masking During Spanish Flu

An excerpt from early San Jose Historian, Clyde Arbuckle, on the Spanish Flu era and the wearing of masks. The statistics are a little off. Current accounting place the number of deaths closer to 675,000.

The office staff and crew of San Jose Rubber Works wear "flu masks” during the great Spanish influenza pandemic of 1918-1919. These masks, fashioned of gauze, prevented a healthy person’s inhaling the exhaled effluvium of an infected person who coughed or sneezed. It also prevented a masked infected person from spreading a disease that began on Europe’s Western Front during World War I and spread throughout the warring nations to account for 500,000 deaths in the United States alone.


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