Can N95 respirators offer healthcare workers more protection than surgical masks?

Compared to surgical masks, N95 respirators aren't superior when it comes to protecting healthcare workers from contracting acute respiratory infections from patients, according to a new study in CMAJ.

While the N95 respirators appear to offer better protection over surgical masks in laboratory settings, this systemic review did not find the same to be true in regards to infection protection in healthcare workers.

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For the study, researchers scoured electronic databases and grey literature, collecting studies published over a 25 year span to investigate the purported protective superiority of the N95 respirator.

"No significant difference in risk of laboratory-confirmed respiratory infection was detected between healthcare workers using N95 respirators and those using surgical masks in the meta-analysis of the [randomized controlled trials]...the cohort study...or the case-control studies," stated the authors.

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