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Unmasked and vulnerable
Date:1/26/2009

Professor MacIntyre said.

Commissioned and funded by the Australian Department of Health and Ageing in response to an urgent policy need, the study is the first randomised controlled clinical trial of masks to be conducted internationally. Researchers at UNSW, Sydney's Westmead Hospital, Imperial College (London) and the National Centre for Immunisation Research studied more than 280 adults in 143 families in Sydney during the winter seasons of 2006 and 2007. The adults were randomly allocated masks when exposed to a sick child in the household.

Professor MacIntyre said a drawback was participants' low compliance, with less than half reporting having worn the masks often or always. However, adherence to preventative measures is known to vary depending on perception of risk and would be expected to increase during a pandemic.

The next pressing research question is the value of the use of masks among health care workers. Preliminary work in Australia in 2007 showed very low acceptance of and compliance with mask use by hospital doctors and nurses.

Professor MacIntyre and her team, along with the Beijing Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, are now running a large trial of masks in close to 2,000 health care workers in more than 20 hospitals in China, where compliance with masks is much greater.

"Results from this trial could have wide implications for not only pandemic influenza, but a range of communicable diseases spread within hospitals,' Professor MacIntyre said.


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Contact: Steve Offner
s.offner@unsw.edu.au
61-424-580-208
University of New South Wales
Source:Eurekalert

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