Using physical barriers to reduce the spread of respiratory viruses

BMJ 2008; 336 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.39406.511817.BE (Published 10 January 2008) Cite this as: BMJ 2008;336:55
  1. Martin Dawes, chair of family medicine
  1. 1Department of Family Medicine, McGill University, Montreal H2W 1S4
  1. martin.dawes{at}mcgill.ca

Handwashing and wearing masks, gloves, and gowns are highly effective

Preparing health professionals and the public for a flu pandemic has been the subject of much research worldwide, and governments and public health departments have published various recommendations over the past five years.1234 One aspect of the clinical management of respiratory viruses—namely barrier methods to reduce transmission—is assessed in the accompanying systematic review by Jefferson and colleagues.5 This review found that handwashing and wearing masks, gloves, and gowns were effective individually in preventing the spread of severe acute respiratory syndrome, and even more effective when combined (odds ratio 0.09, 95% confidence interval 0.02 to 0.35, number needed to treat (NNT)=3, 2.66 to 4.97). The incremental effect of adding virucidals or antiseptics to normal handwashing to reduce …

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