Upgrading face masks 'eliminated Covid-19 risk for hospital staff'

·2-min read

A U.K. hospital appears to have eliminated the risk of Covid-19 infections among workers by upgrading their face masks.

Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust research says the quality of covering worn by healthcare staff can make a huge difference when it comes to the risk of infection.

Addenbrooke's hospital in Cambridge swapped fluid resistant surgical masks (FRSMs) for filtering face piece 3 (FFP3) respirators in December last year after analysing staff testing data.

Workers at the hospital had been tested for Covid-19 since the pandemic began, regardless of whether they showed any symptoms.

The results revealed that healthcare workers looking after Covid-19 patients on 'red wards' faced a 47 per cent greater risk of infection than staff on Covid-free 'green wards', even if they were using the government recommended FRSM protective equipment.

This convinced hospital bosses to upgrade the FRSM masks to the FFP3 type for workers on the Covid-19 wards.

The study concludes that "cases attributed to ward-based exposure fell significantly, with FFP3 respirators providing 31-100 per cent protection (and most likely 100 per cent) against infection from patients with Covid-19".

It adds that the FRSM version is "insufficient" to protect workers.

"(This is) some real world evidence that FFP3 masks are actually effective and more effective than the surgical masks," said Dr Mike Weekes, of Cambridge University NHS Hospitals Foundation Trust, who worked on the study. "But given the difference in the results that we've seen, as a sort of precautionary principle effect, what we should be thinking about is changing to use FFP3 masks for anyone caring for a patient with coronavirus."

Healthcare leaders have been campaigning for some time for staff to be offered better personal protective equipment (PPE).

The results from the study have been published in a pre-print paper but it is yet to be peer-reviewed.

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