TUESDAY, April 14, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- Use of medical masks, such as surgical or procedural masks, does not increase the risk for viral infection or respiratory illness, and their use may serve as a protective measure in instances of N95 respirator shortages, according to the results of a meta-analysis published online April 4 in Influenza and Other Respiratory Viruses.
Jessica J. Bartoszko, from McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, and colleagues analyzed data from four randomized controlled trials that examined differences in using medical masks versus N95 respirators to protect health care workers from communicable respiratory illnesses, including illness caused by coronaviruses.
The researchers found, with low certainty, that the use of medical masks did not increase laboratory-confirmed viral respiratory infection (odds ratio, 1.06; 95 percent confidence interval, 0.90 to 1.25) or clinical respiratory illness (odds ratio, 1.49; 95 percent confidence interval, 0.98 to 2.28). Data from one trial that independently evaluated coronaviruses did not indicate a difference in infection or illness between workers who used masks versus respirators.
"This evidence to support the relative effectiveness of medical masks compared to N95 respirators in routine care might help preserve stockpiles of N95 respirators for high-risk, aerosol-generating procedures," Bartoszko said in a statement.