Physical interventions to prevent the spread of respiratory viruses (search done in April 2020)

Added July 28, 2022

Citation: Jefferson T, Del Mar CB, Dooley L, et al. Physical interventions to interrupt or reduce the spread of respiratory viruses. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2020;(11):CD006207.

Language: Abstract available in EN / ES / FA / FR / TH / ZH. Plain language summary available in DE / EN / ES / FA / FR / HR / JA / MS / RU / TH / ZH. Full text available in EN.

Free to view: Yes.

Funding sources: National Institute for Health Research (UK), National Health and Medical Research Council (Australia) and World Health Organization.

What is this? A variety of physical interventions are used to reduce the spread of respiratory viruses, such as SARS-CoV-2.

In this Cochrane systematic review, the authors searched for randomized trials of physical interventions to prevent transmission of respiratory viruses. They did not restrict their searches by language of publication and did the search on 1 April 2020. They included 67 studies and identified a further 6 ongoing studies.

What was found: At the time of this review, the included studies showed that hand hygiene probably reduces the incidence of acute respiratory illness and may slightly reduce the incidence of influenza-like illnesses in schools, childcare centres, homes and offices.

At the time of this review, the included studies showed that, compared to no masks, wearing medical/surgical masks in community and hospital settings may make little or no difference to preventing the spread of viral influenza-like illness.

At the time of this review, the included studies showed that, compared to medical/surgical masks, wearing N95 masks in hospital and household settings may make little or no difference to preventing the spread of viral influenza-like illness.

At the time of this review, the adverse events of wearing medical/surgical, N95 masks and washing hands were uncertain based on the information in the included studies.

Implications: The authors of the review concluded that a combination of frequent handwashing (with or without antiseptics), barrier measures and isolation of likely cases would reduce the transmission of viral respiratory diseases. They stated that research was needed in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, and that higher-quality research was needed to improve the overall certainty of the evidence.

Other considerations: The authors of the review did not discuss their findings in the context of issues relating to health equity.

 

This summary was prepared by Surya Ramachandran, checked by Yasmeen Saeed, and finalized by Mike Clarke.

 

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