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Face Mask Use and Control of Respiratory Virus Transmission in Households

Many countries are stockpiling face masks for use as a non pharmaceutical intervention to control virus transmission during an influenza pandemic. We conducted a prospective cluster-randomized trial comparing surgical masks, non–fit-tested P2 masks, and no masks in prevention of influenza like illness (ILI) in households. Mask use adherence was self-reported.

During the 2006 and 2007 winter seasons, 286 exposed adults from 143 households who had been exposed to a child with clinical respiratory illness were recruited.  We found that adherence to mask use significantly reduced the risk for ILI-associated infection, but <50% of participants wore masks most of the time. We concluded that household use of face masks is associated with low adherence and is ineffective for controlling seasonal respiratory disease. However, during a severe pandemic when use of face masks might be greater, pandemic transmission in households could be reduced.

Author: MacIntyre CR, Cauchemez S, Dwyer DE, Seale H, Cheung P, Browne G, Fasher M, Wood J, Gao Z, Booy R, Ferguson N

Citation: Emerging Infectious Diseases Vol. 15, No. 2, February 2009. DOI: 10.3201/eid1502.081167

Published: 01/02/2009

Publication Type: Journal article

Publisher: Emerging Infectious Diseases