Surgical masks can not protect against flu

TORONTO Dec 19, 2007– Surgical masks aren’t adequate to protect people from becoming infected during an influenza pandemic, a panel of experts said in a report released Wednesday.

The report, written for the Public Health Agency of Canada, suggested industrial respirators known as N95s would be needed to minimize the risk of transmission of flu.

“Surgical masks don’t really fit the bill,” said Dr. Donald Low, chair of the panel which brought together infection control specialists, nurses and occupational health and safety experts.

“Even if they have a good filtering capacity, inhalable (virus) particles – because they’re not affected by gravity – will take the route of least resistance, which will be around the mask and through the gap that exists between the surgical mask and the face.”

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