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October/November 2009 (vol. 06/3)
Battling respiratory viruses
Physical hygiene measures are highly effective in preventing the spread of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), according to a meta-analysis of six case–control studies. However, an updated systematic review judged most of the randomised and cluster-randomised controlled trials to be of poor quality. The following physical methods are effective: handwashing more than 10 times a day; wearing masks, gloves and gowns; and isolation of potentially infected patients. There is only limited evidence that expensive [US/NIOSH standard] N95 masks are more effective than simple surgical masks – though they may be useful in high-risk situations. There is inconclusive evidence on the benefit of adding virucidals/antiseptics to normal handwashing. The greatest benefit is achieved through hygiene measures aimed at young children and household members of index cases.
British Medical Journal 2009; 339: b3675, doi: 10.1136/bmj.b3675 http://www.bmj.com/content/339/bmj.b3675.abstract
Occupational Health at Work October/November 2009 (vol. 06/3) pp39