What is the efficacy of standard face masks compared to respirator masks in preventing COVID-type respiratory illnesses in primary care staff?
Greenhalgh, Trish et al.
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Most real-world research comparing standard face masks with respirator masks has been in the context of influenza or other relatively benign respiratory conditions and based in hospitals. There are no published head-to-head trials of these interventions in severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection, COVID-19, and no trials in primary or community care settings. Current guidance is therefore based partly on indirect evidence – notably, from past influenza, SARS and MERS outbreaks – as well as expert opinion and custom and practice. Policy guidance from various bodies (e.g. Public Health England, WHO) emphasises the need to assess the contagion risk of an encounter and use the recommended combination of equipment for that situation. A respirator mask and other highly effective PPE (eye protection, gloves, long-sleeved gown, used with good donning/doffing technique) are needed to protect against small airborne particles in aerosol-generating procedures (AGPs) such as intubation. For non-AGPs, there is no evidence that respirator masks add value over standard masks when both are used with recommended wider PPE measures.