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, 3 (7), e2618

Professional and Home-Made Face Masks Reduce Exposure to Respiratory Infections Among the General Population


Professional and Home-Made Face Masks Reduce Exposure to Respiratory Infections Among the General Population

Marianne van der Sande et al. PLoS One.


Background: Governments are preparing for a potential influenza pandemic. Therefore they need data to assess the possible impact of interventions. Face-masks worn by the general population could be an accessible and affordable intervention, if effective when worn under routine circumstances.

Methodology: We assessed transmission reduction potential provided by personal respirators, surgical masks and home-made masks when worn during a variety of activities by healthy volunteers and a simulated patient.

Principal findings: All types of masks reduced aerosol exposure, relatively stable over time, unaffected by duration of wear or type of activity, but with a high degree of individual variation. Personal respirators were more efficient than surgical masks, which were more efficient than home-made masks. Regardless of mask type, children were less well protected. Outward protection (mask wearing by a mechanical head) was less effective than inward protection (mask wearing by healthy volunteers).

Conclusions/significance: Any type of general mask use is likely to decrease viral exposure and infection risk on a population level, in spite of imperfect fit and imperfect adherence, personal respirators providing most protection. Masks worn by patients may not offer as great a degree of protection against aerosol transmission.

Conflict of interest statement

Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.


Figure 1
Figure 1. Protection factor of home-made mask being measured by Portacount in volunteer.
Volunteer with home-made mask made of tea cloth. Note the candles in the foreground and the other mask types in the background.
Figure 2
Figure 2. Protection factors over time per volunteer by type of mask worn.
Please note different scale on Y-axis!
Figure 3
Figure 3. Outward protection factors at a range of breathing flows for a mechanical head with different types of masks, with two meaurements per mask at each breathing flow.
PFs for teacloth did not differ during the repeated measurement at each breathing flow, so light blue triangles overlap in figure.

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