Study: Surgical Masks Match Respirators for Respiratory Virus Protection


The results of a new study indicate that surgical masks are as effective as respirator-type masks in protecting healthcare workers from influenza and other respiratory viruses.

The randomized clinical trial involving more than 2,800 healthcare personnel at 137 outpatient sites compared the use of surgical/medical masks to N95 respirators.

The results, which were published in JAMA, revealed no significant difference in the incidence of laboratory-confirmed flu between the pieces of protection.

Dr. Trish Perl, chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases and Geographic Medicine at UT Southwestern Medical Center and the report's senior author stated in a news release, "This finding is important from a public policy standpoint because it informs about what should be recommended and what kind of protective apparel should be kept available for outbreaks.”

Furthermore, as the news release noted, the mask only costs about a dime while N95 costs around $1. 

The study was performed at multiple medical settings in several U.S. cities, including Houston, Denver, Washington and New York. Participating researchers came from the University of Texas, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Johns Hopkins University, the University of Colorado, Children's Hospital Colorado, the University of Massachusetts, the University of Florida and several Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals.

Researchers collected data during four flu seasons between 2011 and 2015.