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VERIFY: No, Dr. Fauci didn't blame masks for 1918 Spanish flu deaths

A viral claim said Dr. Fauci published a study linking bacterial pneumonia in the 1918 flu pandemic to people wearing masks. It's false. Here's what we found.

Viral claims appearing on social media say that Dr. Anthony Fauci published a study in 2008 linking mask usage during the 1918 Spanish Flu outbreak to deadly cases of bacterial pneumonia.

One post claimed that Fauci “neglected to let the public know that he was co-author on a paper,” that found “1918-1919 pandemic deaths were mostly from bacterial pneumonia.”

“Why did that happen?” The claim asks. “Masks.”


Did Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, co-author a 2008 study proving that wearing a mask during the Spanish Flu led to bacterial pneumonia?


No. These viral claims take a few nuggets of truth from the study and spins them into a false narrative about masks. Dr. Fauci did co-author a paper about bacterial pneumonia during the 1918 flu outbreak, but it had nothing to do with masks whatsoever.


The study in question, “Predominant Role of Bacterial Pneumonia as a Cause of Death in Pandemic Influenza: Implications for Pandemic Influenza Preparedness,” looked into the “causes of death associated with influenza pandemics.”

The key findings were that the majority of deaths in the 1918 pandemic “likely resulted directly from secondary bacterial pneumonia.”

The paper explained that the virus and bacteria both impacted patients in 1918.
The virus would enter a patient's body and damage the respiratory system and lungs and then bacteria would enter those areas and lead to an infection like pneumonia.

The deadly nature of the bacterial pneumonia in 1918 was a result of damage caused by the virus and the fact that no antibiotics existed at the time. Penicillin wasn’t discovered until 1928. 

But, the paper says absolutely nothing about masks. In fact, you can scan all 16 pages and you won’t even find the word “mask” written once.

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