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N95 vs Plain Mask for Flu Prevention

October 24, 2019

Written by Vivian Lei

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This study found no difference in effectiveness between an N95 respiratory and common medical mask in preventing transmission of influenza or other viral respiratory illnesses in a healthcare workplace.

 Why does this matter?
When taking care of patients with viral respiratory illnesses, does it matter if you wear an N95 respiratory or a standard medical mask? Some of you may recall this was presented at ID Week a year ago, and we covered it. Now it’s officially published in JAMA.

Wear a mask, any mask!
This was a cluster randomized, pragmatic effectiveness trial performed in diverse outpatient settings of 7 large medical centers. During 4 consecutive flu seasons, healthcare personnel (HCP) at matched sites were randomized to N95 respirators or medical masks. In total, there were 2862 participants and 4689 HCP-seasons included in the analysis. In the N95 group, there were 207 laboratory-confirmed influenza infections, or 8.2% of HCP-seasons. In the mask group, there were 193 laboratory-confirmed influenza infections. or 7.2% of HCP-seasons. Researchers found no significant difference in incidence of laboratory-confirmed influenza between these two groups (difference of 1.0%, 95% CI of −0.5% to 2.5%; P=0.18). Additionally, the incidence of other laboratory detected respiratory infections, unspecified respiratory illnesses, and influenza-like illnesses were similar. Self-reported adherence (always or sometimes wearing the assigned device) was about 90% in both groups.

N95 Respirators vs Medical Masks for Preventing Influenza Among Health Care Personnel: A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA. 2019 Sep 3;322(9):824-833. doi: 10.1001/jama.2019.11645.

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Reviewed by Clay Smith

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