Friday, May 1, 2009

More on face masks

I just ran across a very helpful article on the use of face masks to prevent the transmission of influenza-like illness in the home.  The researchers asked parents who had children with respiratory illness to wear either surgical masks, non-fit tested P2 masks (= N-95 masks), or no mask to see if the masks protected them against infection. 

The key findings were: 
"We estimated that... the relative reduction in the daily risk of acquiring a respiratory infection associated with adherent mask use (P2 or surgical) was in the range of 60%–80%." (emphasis added) 

"Adherent" in this context means that the people actually wore the mask most or all of the time.  And...

"... [less than] 50% of those in the mask use groups reported wearing masks most of the time."

You can't win if you don't play, folks.  The take home message here is: Masks help... but only if you use them consistently.

Interestingly, the authors also found no significant difference in adherence between P2 (N-95) mask users and surgical mask users, despite the widespread opinion that N-95 masks are more uncomfortable than surgical masks.

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