Fact check: No evidence mask wearers are arriving in ICUs with pneumonia

The claim: Mask wearers are arriving in ICUs with pneumonia inhaled from masks

Can wearing a mask land you in the hospital? It can according to one viral social media post that claims many mask wearers have been coming down with infections and pneumonia.

"MASK WEARERS ARE NOW ARRIVING IN ICU WITH ANTIBIOTIC RESISTANT STRAINS OF PNEUMONIA," reads an image shared by Facebook user Carol Bergmann and others on the social medial platform.  


The text closes with the name "Margie Clarke," leaving no hints as to where exactly these events are occurring. The image itself includes a screenshot of what appears to be a word-processing document. "Here comes your second wave people" sits above the screenshot but within the image. 

Bergmann's post has received over 570 shares since it was posted on Oct. 24.

"Not surprised," commented Amy Culver Davis.

"I think people aren't washing their cloth masks and are reusing disposables. So, that could happen... It's totally possible," wrote Dani Grove Bowling. 

USA TODAY has reached out to Bergmann for further comment. 

More:Fact check: Trump's past flu vaccinations not linked to increased COVID-19 risk

What is pneumonia? 

Pneumonia is an infection of either or both lungs' air sacs, also known as alveoli. Bacteria, viruses and fungi can attack the respiratory tract, causing the alveoli to fill with fluid or pus. Symptoms can range from mild to severe depending on the infectious agent. Those most at risk are children younger than 2 and adults 65 years and older, as well as individuals who are hospitalized, and those with lung disease, compromised immune systems or recently sick with the flu. 

Pneumonia due to bacterial infection is commonly treated with antibiotics, but because bacteria can evolve, they can become resistant to an antibiotic's killing mechanism.

USA TODAY could not locate or confirm any recent reports of intensive care unit admission for antibiotic-resistant pneumonia. Reuters as well could not confirm any such cases according to its September reporting.  

More:Fact check: What's true and what's false about face masks?

Can mask wearing cause pneumonia? 

“There’s no evidence of masks leading to fungal or bacterial infections of the upper airway or the lower airway as in pneumonia,” said Dr. Davidson Hamer, infectious disease specialist and professor of global health and medicine at Boston University.

In a July phone interview with the Associated Press, Hamer stated that theoretically anything could become contaminated with bacterial growth if already damp with moisture or moldy. However, the possibility was "highly unlikely with just typical mask use." 

Dr. Anne Monroe, an associate research professor at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health and an internist, also agreed. 

“The idea that contamination could cause fungal pneumonia is not a valid conclusion,” she told the Associated Press during a phone interview, citing as well that no cases of pneumonia arising from mask wearing have been documented.

Our ruling: False

We rate this claim FALSE because it is not supported by our research. USA TODAY and other fact check outlets could not confirm reports of people with antibiotic-resistant pneumonia being admitted to intensive care units. Health experts have said the chance of developing pneumonia from mask wearing could theoretically exist but is highly unlikely with appropriate and typical mask use.  

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