How to protect yourself from a cold-weather illness that is mostly a myth

In a town hall televised on cable on Tuesday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio was urging residents of the city to protect themselves against the sickly respiratory illness known as the lung problem.

The disease is called “Omicron Loops” (or Oly for short). It’s spread by lingering fecal matter in the air, particularly in the fall and winter when it’s cold and damp. There are 28 confirmed cases of Ometin in the city so far this year. While it’s nothing to get your knickers in a knot over, the virus is deadly for vulnerable infants and young children.

De Blasio urged New Yorkers to wear masks in public to reduce exposure, saying that wearing a face mask indoors “reduces the risk to one-third.” He’s right, but it won’t really make much of a difference.

For one thing, masks don’t provide much of a shield against the virus once it becomes airborne. Even without exposure to feces, the sneezing, coughing, and pulling your hair out of your head can spread it from person to person, most of the time uncomfortably.

And, because it can be highly contagious, it’s worth taking precautions even if you have no symptoms. So how do you protect yourself in public?

You can wear a facemask, which is a rubber-covered shirt or a mask that covers your nose and mouth. But that doesn’t protect you if you’re doing something else, like doing your business, an activity that’s likely to increase your chances of spreading the virus. And, although it might seem obvious, you should not wear a face mask inside a workplace.

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