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Covid 19: Research Finds Upgrade In Mask Cuts Risk of Infection

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Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has shown that quality of face masks make a huge difference to the risk of coronavirus infection of healthcare workers.

FFP3, a high grade mask is able to provide a 100% protection against the virus compare to standard issue surgical masks. Thus, professional bodies have been campaigning for staff to receive appropriate personal protective equipment.

Previous masks, though fluid resistant, are flimsy and loose fitting making not able to screen out infectious aerosols-tiny virus particles lingering in the air.

Lead researcher Dr Mark Ferris, a specialist in occupational health at the hospital, found that staff operating in “red” wards face 47 times the risk of infection than those in “green” or non-covid wards despite all action taken in terms of infection control.

Since the second wave of the pandemic in last December, managers in Cambridge upgraded to FFP3 respirators as a last resort to protect the “red” wards. These masks have a tight fit and are specifically designed to filter out aerosols.

The rate of infection among healthcare workers in “red” dropped rapidly within the weeks following this move reaching the level experienced by those found in “green” or non-covid wards. This shows that ward-based exposure fell significantly as FFP3 respirators provide 31-100% protection (most likely 100%) against infection from patients with Covid-19.

The study concludes by stating fluid-resistant surgical masks were “insufficient” for protecting the healthcare workers. Dr Mike Weekes, of Cambridge University NHS Hospitals Foundation Trust, said “The work gives some real-world evidence that FFP3 masks are actually more effective than the surgical masks.”

He also added: “Clearly it’s a relatively small study in one trust but given the difference in the results, as a sort of precautionary principal effect, it is safe to change to FFP3 masks for anyone caring for a infected patient.”

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