Surgical Masks Offer No Protection Against a Pandemic

SAN FRANCISCO – Surgical masks offer doctors no protection against a pandemic and need to be replaced, says a new study.

The study by University of New South Wales (UNSW), which compared the efficiency of various masks, found that specialized respirators (N95 masks) offer the best protection to health workers.

This is the first study to compare the efficiency of various masks, and it revealed that surgical masks offer no protection at all to either influenza or respiratory disease.

N95 masks provided 75 percent protection against proven influenza infection and 56 percent protection against proven respiratory viral infections.

The findings could revolutionize current medical practice, which relies on surgical masks providing defense against influenza when vaccines aren’t available.

The protection of health workers is crucial, as they are at the front line of an effective pandemic response, according to Raina MacIntyre, UNSW professor, who led the study.

The results suggest that, although they’re more expensive, N95 masks should be the standard protective equipment offered to health workers.

The random clinical trial was performed in 24 hospitals and involved 1,936 hospital health care workers in Beijing, China.

These findings were presented at the Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy in San Francisco.