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Masks, hand washing, prevent spread of flu-like symptoms by up to 50 percent
Date:10/27/2008

ANN ARBOR, Mich.---Wearing masks and using alcohol-based hand sanitizers may prevent the spread of flu symptoms by as much as 50 percent, a landmark new study suggests.

In a first-of-its-kind look at the efficacy of non-pharmaceutical interventions in controlling the spread of the flu virus in a community setting, researchers at the University of Michigan School of Public Health studied more than 1,000 student subjects from seven U-M residence halls during last year's flu season.

"The first-year results (2006-2007) indicate that mask use and alcohol-based hand sanitizer help reduce influenza- like illness rates, ranging from 10 to 50 percent over the study period," said Allison Aiello, co-principal investigator and assistant professor of epidemiology at the U-M SPH. Dr. Arnold Monto, professor of epidemiology, is also a principal investigator of the study.

Aiello stressed the first year of the two-year project, called M-Flu, was a very mild flu season and only a few cases were positive for flu, so results should be interpreted cautiously. Ongoing studies will test for other viruses that may be responsible for the influenza-like illness symptoms observed, she said.

"Nevertheless, these initial results are encouraging since masks and hand hygiene may be effective for preventing a range of respiratory illnesses," Aiello said.

The findings, "Mask Use Reduces Seasonal Influenza-like Illness In The Community Setting," was presented Sunday at The Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy and the Infectious Diseases Society of America annual meeting in Washington, D.C.

At the start of flu season in the last two years, participants were randomly assigned to six weeks of wearing a standard medical procedure mask alone, mask use and hand sanitizer use, or a control group with no intervention. Researchers followed students for incidence of influenza like illness symptoms, defined as cough
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Contact: Laura Bailey
baileylm@umich.edu
734-647-1848
University of Michigan
Source:Eurekalert

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