The use of cloth masks may actually be increasing the risk of respiratory illness and viral infections and their global use should be discouraged, according to a UNSW study. (University of New South Wales)
The results of the first randomized clinical trial (RCT) to study the efficacy of cloth masks were published in the journal BMJ Open.
The trial saw 1607 hospital healthcare workers across 14 hospitals in the Vietnamese capital, Hanoi, split into three groups: those wearing medical masks, those wearing cloth masks and a control group based on usual practice, which included mask wearing.
Workers used the mask on every shift for four consecutive weeks.
The study found respiratory infection was much higher among healthcare workers wearing cloth masks.
The penetration of cloth masks by particles was almost 97% compared to medical masks with 44%.
Professor Raina MacIntyre, lead study author and head of UNSW’s School of Public Health and Community Medicine, said the results of the study caution against the use of cloth masks.
“Masks are worn to protect from infection during pandemics and outbreaks, especially when there are no drugs or vaccines available for protection,” Professor MacIntyre said.
“Masks are especially important for frontline doctors and nurses, as their protection from infection is key to maintaining the ability to tackle a pandemic effectively.