Common medical masks effective for most COVID-19 treatments, study finds

N95 respirator masks should be preserved for procedures where breathing tubes need to be inserted into patients, while common medical masks can be safely used for most other COVID-19 treatments, a new study found.

The study, accepted for publication by the journal Influenza and Other Respiratory Viruses, reviewed four randomized controlled trials on masks between January 1990 and March.

Researchers found the use of common medical masks did not increase viral respiratory infection or clinical respiratory illness compared to the use of N95 respirator masks during procedures where fine air particles were not generated.

Healthcare workers should wear the fitted N95 respirator masks for procedures during which fine air particles are generated, such as inserting breathing tubes, as national and international guidelines unanimously recommend this, said Mark Loeb, MD, a professor of pathology and molecular medicine at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada.

Researchers said they plan to follow up this study with a multisite randomized controlled trial where nurses will use either a medical mask or N95 respirator mask when caring for patients with fever and respiratory illness.


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