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December/January 2009/2010 (vol. 06/4)

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Research Plus

Surgical masks and flu

Standard surgical masks are no worse than more expensive NIOSH-approved N95 respirators in protecting healthcare workers against influenza viruses. A total of 446 nurses in eight hospitals were randomly assigned either a standard surgical mask or a fit-tested N95 respirator (30% of each group had received seasonal flu vaccine). Between January and April 2009, there were 50 confirmed influenza cases (23.6%) in the surgical mask group and 48 (22.9%) in the N95 group, with no significant difference in the absolute risk between the two groups (it was impossible to tell whether infections were due to community or hospital exposure).

Journal of the American Medical Association 2009; 302(17): 1865–1871.

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Occupational Health at Work December/January 2009/2010 (vol. 06/4) pp41