FACT CHECK: Did Anthony Fauci Attribute 1918-1919 Spanish Flu Deaths To Face Masks In A 2008 Study?

Brad Sylvester | Fact Check Reporter

A viral Facebook post claims White House coronavirus adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci wrote a paper that found most 1918-1919 Spanish Influenza pandemic deaths were “because of bacterial pneumonia from wearing masks.”

Verdict: False

While Fauci did co-author a 2008 study about the causes of Spanish Influenza deaths, it mentions nothing about masks. The study found that a majority of the deaths were caused by secondary bacterial pneumonia related to influenza infection.

Fact Check:

The post features a screen grab of two tweets from the Twitter user @ColleenHuberNMD. One of the tweets reads, “The unmasked buried the masked in the ‘Spanish Flu.’ What did people in #masks die from? Bacterial pneumonia. Who knew this and wrote about it in 2008? Dr. Anthony Fauci.”

While Fauci did co-author a 2008 study titled “Predominant Role of Bacterial Pneumonia as a Cause of Death in Pandemic Influenza,” the Facebook post and tweets misrepresent its findings. (RELATED: Did Anthony Fauci Sit On The Clinton Foundation’s Board For 20 Years?)

The study sought to learn more about the “causes of deaths associated with influenza pandemics” by studying the 1918-1919 Spanish Influenza pandemic. Fauci and his colleagues examined “lung tissue sections obtained during 58 autopsies and reviewed pathologic and bacteriologic data from 109 published autopsy series that described 8,398 individual autopsy investigations,” according to the study.

The majority of deaths in the Spanish Influenza pandemic “likely resulted directly from secondary bacterial pneumonia caused by common upper respiratory-tract bacteria,” the study found. The pneumonia was “caused when bacteria that normally inhabit the nose and throat invaded the lungs along a pathway created when the [influenza] virus destroyed the cells that line the bronchial tubes and lungs,” per a news release about the study.

“In essence, the virus landed the first blow while bacteria delivered the knockout punch,” Fauci explained, according to the news release.

At no point does the study mention face masks or attempt to point to them as the cause of such bacteria pneumonia. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases confirmed in an email to the Daily Caller News Foundation that the study had nothing to do with masks and noted that secondary bacterial pneumonias have long been associated with severe influenza in human and animal studies.

Fact-checkers have previously debunked the notion that wearing masks can cause pneumonia. We rate this claim false.

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Brad Sylvester

Fact Check Reporter
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