Testing the Efficacy of Homemade Masks: Would They Protect in an Influenza Pandemic?

Disaster Med Public Health Prep. 2013 Aug;7(4):413-8. doi: 10.1017/dmp.2013.43.

Abstract

Objective: This study examined homemade masks as an alternative to commercial face masks.

Methods: Several household materials were evaluated for the capacity to block bacterial and viral aerosols. Twenty-one healthy volunteers made their own face masks from cotton t-shirts; the masks were then tested for fit. The number of microorganisms isolated from coughs of healthy volunteers wearing their homemade mask, a surgical mask, or no mask was compared using several air-sampling techniques.

Results: The median-fit factor of the homemade masks was one-half that of the surgical masks. Both masks significantly reduced the number of microorganisms expelled by volunteers, although the surgical mask was 3 times more effective in blocking transmission than the homemade mask.

Conclusion: Our findings suggest that a homemade mask should only be considered as a last resort to prevent droplet transmission from infected individuals, but it would be better than no protection.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Equipment Failure
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Influenza A Virus, H1N1 Subtype
  • Influenza, Human / prevention & control*
  • Influenza, Human / transmission*
  • Male
  • Masks / standards*
  • Pandemics*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult