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Review: Physical Distancing, Face Masks Avert Virus Transmission

Odds of transmission reduced with physical distancing ≥1 m, face masks, eye protection

WEDNESDAY, June 3, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- Physical distancing of 1 m or more, face mask use, and eye protection are all associated with reduced odds of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) transmission, according to a review published online June 1 in The Lancet.

Derek K. Chu, M.D., from McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, and colleagues conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis to examine the optimum distance for avoiding person-to-person virus transmission and examine use of face masks and eye protection to prevent transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and the betacoronaviruses that cause SARS and Middle East respiratory syndrome. A total of 172 observational studies across 16 countries and six continents were included, with 44 relevant comparative studies in health care and non-health care settings (25,697 patients).

The researchers found that compared with a distance of less than 1 m, physical distancing of 1 m or more correlated with lower virus transmission (pooled adjusted odds ratio, 0.18; risk difference, −10.2 percent); as distance was lengthened, protection increased (change in relative risk, 2.02 per meter). A large reduction in risk for infection could result from face mask use (adjusted odds ratio, 0.15; risk difference, −14.3 percent), with stronger associations for N95 or similar respirators versus disposable masks or similar. Less infection was also seen with eye protection (adjusted odds ratio, 0.22; risk difference, −10.6 percent).

"Governments and the public health community can use our results to give clear advice for community settings and health care workers on these protective measures to reduce infection risk," a coauthor said in a statement.

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