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.”


Study shown wearing mask and handwashing reduce virus transmission

MedScape Medical News, December 6, 2007
Handwashing and wearing a mask are effective physical barriers to prevent the spread of respiratory tract virus infections, according to the results of a Cochrane review published Online First in the November 28 issue of the BMJ.
At the end of the article, it states:
“The use of handwashing, masks, gloves, and gowns alone or in combination to prevent the transmission of respiratory tract virus infections is associated with a 55% to 90% reduction in transmission.”