Wednesday, 20 February 2013

N95 masks must be worn continually to protect against respiratory infection

by Michael Woodhead
N95 respirator masks must be worn continually by healthcare workers if they are to be effective in preventing transmission of respiratory infections, a Beijing study has shown.
In a randomised clinical trial of 1669 hospital staff in Beijing in the 2009/2010 winter, healthcare workers used either medical masks; N95 respirators continually or targeted use of N95 respirators while doing high-risk procedures or barrier nursing.
The study showed that the rate of respiratory illness was highest in the medical mask users (17%), followed by the targeted N95 arm (12%), and the N95 arm (7%).
Bacterial respiratory tract colonisation in subjects with respiratory illness was highest in the medical mask arm (15%), followed by the targeted N95 arm (10%) and lowest in the N95 arm (6%).
The researchers from the Beijing Center for Disease Prevention and Control say that targeted N95 use is no better than wearing a medical mask and that continuous use of N95 respirators is more effective against respiratory illness than intermittent use of N95, or medical masks.
"Most policies for healthcare workers recommend use of medical masks alone, or targeted N95 respirator use ... this study provides further data to inform occupational policy options for healthcare workers," they conclude.
Source: American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine

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