Objectives: To determine the risk of SARS-CoV-2 transmission by aerosols, to provide evidence on the rational use of masks, and to discuss additional measures important for the protection of healthcare workers from COVID-19.
Methods: Literature review and expert opinion.
Short conclusion: SARS-CoV-2, the pathogen causing COVID-19, is considered to be transmitted via droplets rather than aerosols, but droplets with strong directional airflow support may spread further than 2 m. High rates of COVID-19 infections in healthcare-workers (HCWs) have been reported from several countries. Respirators such as filtering face piece (FFP) 2 masks were designed to protect HCWs, while surgical masks were originally intended to protect patients (e.g., during surgery). Nevertheless, high quality standard surgical masks (type II/IIR according to European Norm EN 14683) appear to be as effective as FFP2 masks in preventing droplet-associated viral infections of HCWs as reported from influenza or SARS. So far, no head-to-head trials with these masks have been published for COVID-19. Neither mask type completely prevents transmission, which may be due to inappropriate handling and alternative transmission pathways. Therefore, compliance with a bundle of infection control measures including thorough hand hygiene is key. During high-risk procedures, both droplets and aerosols may be produced, reason why respirators are indicated for these interventions.
Keywords: Aerosol; COVID-19; Droplet; Infection control; Mask; SARS-CoV-2; Transmission.