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Risk of SARS-CoV-2 transmission by aerosols, the rational use of masks, and protection of healthcare workers from COVID-19


Sommerstein, Rami; Fux, Christoph Andreas; Vuichard-Gysin, Danielle; Abbas, Mohamed; Marschall, Jonas; Balmelli, Carlo; Troillet, Nicolas; Harbarth, Stephan; Schlegel, Matthias; Widmer, Andreas; SwissNoso (2020). Risk of SARS-CoV-2 transmission by aerosols, the rational use of masks, and protection of healthcare workers from COVID-19. Antimicrobial Resistance and Infection Control, 9:100.

Abstract

OBJECTIVES

To determine the risk of SARS-CoV-2 transmission by aerosols, to provide evidence on the rational use of masks, and to discuss additional measures important for the protection of healthcare workers from COVID-19.

METHODS

Literature review and expert opinion.

SHORT CONCLUSION

SARS-CoV-2, the pathogen causing COVID-19, is considered to be transmitted via droplets rather than aerosols, but droplets with strong directional airflow support may spread further than 2 m. High rates of COVID-19 infections in healthcare-workers (HCWs) have been reported from several countries. Respirators such as filtering face piece (FFP) 2 masks were designed to protect HCWs, while surgical masks were originally intended to protect patients (e.g., during surgery). Nevertheless, high quality standard surgical masks (type II/IIR according to European Norm EN 14683) appear to be as effective as FFP2 masks in preventing droplet-associated viral infections of HCWs as reported from influenza or SARS. So far, no head-to-head trials with these masks have been published for COVID-19. Neither mask type completely prevents transmission, which may be due to inappropriate handling and alternative transmission pathways. Therefore, compliance with a bundle of infection control measures including thorough hand hygiene is key. During high-risk procedures, both droplets and aerosols may be produced, reason why respirators are indicated for these interventions.

Abstract

OBJECTIVES

To determine the risk of SARS-CoV-2 transmission by aerosols, to provide evidence on the rational use of masks, and to discuss additional measures important for the protection of healthcare workers from COVID-19.

METHODS

Literature review and expert opinion.

SHORT CONCLUSION

SARS-CoV-2, the pathogen causing COVID-19, is considered to be transmitted via droplets rather than aerosols, but droplets with strong directional airflow support may spread further than 2 m. High rates of COVID-19 infections in healthcare-workers (HCWs) have been reported from several countries. Respirators such as filtering face piece (FFP) 2 masks were designed to protect HCWs, while surgical masks were originally intended to protect patients (e.g., during surgery). Nevertheless, high quality standard surgical masks (type II/IIR according to European Norm EN 14683) appear to be as effective as FFP2 masks in preventing droplet-associated viral infections of HCWs as reported from influenza or SARS. So far, no head-to-head trials with these masks have been published for COVID-19. Neither mask type completely prevents transmission, which may be due to inappropriate handling and alternative transmission pathways. Therefore, compliance with a bundle of infection control measures including thorough hand hygiene is key. During high-risk procedures, both droplets and aerosols may be produced, reason why respirators are indicated for these interventions.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:04 Faculty of Medicine > University Hospital Zurich > Clinic for Infectious Diseases
Dewey Decimal Classification:610 Medicine & health
Scopus Subject Areas:Health Sciences > Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
Health Sciences > Microbiology (medical)
Health Sciences > Infectious Diseases
Health Sciences > Pharmacology (medical)
Language:English
Date:6 July 2020
Deposited On:15 Jan 2021 17:07
Last Modified:16 Feb 2021 21:07
Publisher:BioMed Central
ISSN:2047-2994
OA Status:Gold
Free access at:PubMed ID. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1186/s13756-020-00763-0
PubMed ID:32631450

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