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Germ-Fighting Scarf Shields Straphangers from Airborne Illness

By Janet Upadhye | February 28, 2014 7:05am

DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN — Cover your mouth when you cough, or this scarf will do it for you.

A trio of "style-conscious germaphobes" have designed a scarf made from special germ-filtering cloth, in a high-tech bid to keep nasty bugs at bay — particularly on the subway.

The Scough — a mashup of the words "scarf" and "cough" — was the brainchild of Alexa Nigro, Ari Klaristenfeld and Andrew Kessler, who couldn't stand another winter riding the subway next to people who don't cover their mouths when they cough.

The scarf that retails for $39 to $59 on the company's website and on Etsy, can be drawn around the face to act as a fashionable mask, its creators said.

“People have no idea it has a hidden filter," co-founder Alexa Nigro told the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership. "I wear it as a normal scarf most of the time... then when I'm on the subway or riding my bike, I will pull it over my face."

Nigro swears by her scarf, saying that it's saved her a winter of misery.

"I haven't been sick since I started wearing mine,” she told the BID.

The material inside the Scough is made with an activated carbon filter impregnated with silver.

"There is real science, done by serious lab coat-wearing folks, who created this technology for modern warfare," they explained. "We just were clever enough to make it look nice, be soft and adapt it to your daily grind."

Masks in general help keep people healthy, one germ expert said.

"It would make sense that any covering would reduce potential exposure to airborne organisms," said Elaine L. Larson, associate dean for research at the Columbia University School of Nursing.

But the editor of the American Journal of Infection Control said it is probably not known whether that would actually reduce infection.

Still, the scarves are fashionable.

The Scough comes in fake fur, flannel and cashmere with patterns including plaid and paisley. Some scarves sport a mustache or bright pink lips.

"You don’t want to wear a silly-looking surgeon’s mask to keep healthy. So instead of looking like you’ve come down with the bubonic plague when you walk onto the subway, you'll just be that stylish looking guy or gal sporting a designer Scough with built-in protection from the harsh germ and pollution-filled world," the Scough team wrote on their website.

"Results: you stay healthy and look pretty hot, if you don’t mind us saying. (But hot in the metaphorical, sexy sense, not because you have a fever.)"

The founders added a disclaimer to their site: "While we can’t guarantee the Scough will keep you from getting sick, it will definitely increase your chances of staying healthy and warm."