Imperial College London
Many countries are stockpiling face masks for use as a nonpharmaceutical intervention to control virus transmission during an influenza pandemic. We conducted a prospective cluster-randomized trial comparing surgical masks, non-fit-tested P2 masks, and no masks in prevention of influenza-like illness (ILI) in households. Mask use adherence was self-reported. During the 2006 and 2007 winter seasons, 286 exposed adults from 143 households who had been exposed to a child with clinical respiratory illness were recruited. We found that adherence to mask use significantly reduced the risk for ILI-associated infection, but <50% of participants wore masks most of the time. We concluded that household use of face masks is associated with low adherence and is ineffective for controlling seasonal respiratory disease. However, during a severe pandemic when use of face masks might be greater, pandemic transmission in households could be reduced.