Meeting NewsPerspective

Mask policy leads to significant decrease in nosocomial flu

SAN FRANCISCO — Researchers in Germany said they observed a significant decrease in nosocomial influenza A and B infections resulting from a campaign that required hospital staff to wear masks for their entire shift during a recent influenza season.

Previous studies have elucidated the issue of nosocomial influenza, with one showing that 94.6% of health care workers in nine Canadian hospitals reported working with respiratory symptoms and another demonstrating that a “significant” proportion of patients and health care workers shed influenza virus before the appearance of symptoms, suggesting a need for better influenza control.

In a campaign called “Masks Save Lives,” a hospital in Germany directed health care staff from wards with more than two influenza patients to wear surgical masks during their entire shift, instead of following standard hygiene protocol, which includes wearing masks only in front of patients.

According to the study, the researchers compared 365 patients with influenza A or B in 2018 who were cared for under the campaign to 271 patients from the 2015 influenza season. Results showed that the rate of nosocomial influenza A infections in 2015 vs. 2018 was 22.5% vs. 8.4% and the rate of influenza B infections was 11.1% vs. 5.7%. The researchers cited an overall mean decrease in infections of 62% when masks were used during the whole shift when compared with standard hygiene management.

Overall, they concluded that the “Masks Save Lives” campaign was highly effective and put a focus on the transmission of nosocomial influenza that is lacking in the official recommendations of influenza management. – by Caitlyn Stulpin

Reference:

Ambrosch A, et al. A “Masks Save Lives” campaign effectively prevents nosocomial influenza A/B. Presented at: ASM Microbe; June 20-24, 2019; San Francisco.

Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.

SAN FRANCISCO — Researchers in Germany said they observed a significant decrease in nosocomial influenza A and B infections resulting from a campaign that required hospital staff to wear masks for their entire shift during a recent influenza season.

Previous studies have elucidated the issue of nosocomial influenza, with one showing that 94.6% of health care workers in nine Canadian hospitals reported working with respiratory symptoms and another demonstrating that a “significant” proportion of patients and health care workers shed influenza virus before the appearance of symptoms, suggesting a need for better influenza control.

In a campaign called “Masks Save Lives,” a hospital in Germany directed health care staff from wards with more than two influenza patients to wear surgical masks during their entire shift, instead of following standard hygiene protocol, which includes wearing masks only in front of patients.

According to the study, the researchers compared 365 patients with influenza A or B in 2018 who were cared for under the campaign to 271 patients from the 2015 influenza season. Results showed that the rate of nosocomial influenza A infections in 2015 vs. 2018 was 22.5% vs. 8.4% and the rate of influenza B infections was 11.1% vs. 5.7%. The researchers cited an overall mean decrease in infections of 62% when masks were used during the whole shift when compared with standard hygiene management.

Overall, they concluded that the “Masks Save Lives” campaign was highly effective and put a focus on the transmission of nosocomial influenza that is lacking in the official recommendations of influenza management. – by Caitlyn Stulpin

Reference:

Ambrosch A, et al. A “Masks Save Lives” campaign effectively prevents nosocomial influenza A/B. Presented at: ASM Microbe; June 20-24, 2019; San Francisco.

Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.

    Perspective
    Gitanjali Pai

    Gitanjali Pai

    This is an interesting study that highlights the effectiveness of this simple, easy-to-check and cost-effective infection control measure to help potentially prevent nosocomial transmission, and the subsequent clinical implications of this preventable entity. Influenza is highly contagious, with a high morbidity and mortality impact on health care. The findings of this study mirror the findings of a prior study by the author Ambrosch and colleagues, where the potential effectiveness of continuous use of surgical masks for medical staff in wards with influenza patients and in high-patient-turnover wards, in preventing nosocomial infections, was underlined. It would be interesting to see the impact of implementing this hierarchical measure in larger and varied settings. Influenza does have a high health care burden, and measures to prevent transmission should be highly encouraged.

    • Gitanjali Pai, MD, AAHIVS
    • Infectious Disease News Editorial Board member
      Memorial Hospital
      Stilwell, Oklahoma

    Disclosures: Pai reports serving on advisory boards for Abbvie and Gilead Sciences.

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