Medical masks vs N95 respirators for preventing COVID-19 in healthcare workers: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized trials.Influenza Other Respir Viruses. 2020 07; 14(4):365-373.IO
Respiratory protective devices are critical in protecting against infection in healthcare workers at high risk of novel 2019 coronavirus disease (COVID-19); however, recommendations are conflicting and epidemiological data on their relative effectiveness against COVID-19 are limited.
To compare medical masks to N95 respirators in preventing laboratory-confirmed viral infection and respiratory illness including coronavirus specifically in healthcare workers.
MEDLINE, Embase, and CENTRAL from January 1, 2014, to March 9, 2020. Update of published search conducted from January 1, 1990, to December 9, 2014.
Randomized controlled trials (RCTs) comparing the protective effect of medical masks to N95 respirators in healthcare workers.
Reviewer pair independently screened, extracted data, and assessed risk of bias and the certainty of the evidence.
Four RCTs were meta-analyzed adjusting for clustering. Compared with N95 respirators; the use of medical masks did not increase laboratory-confirmed viral (including coronaviruses) respiratory infection (OR 1.06; 95% CI 0.90-1.25; I2 = 0%; low certainty in the evidence) or clinical respiratory illness (OR 1.49; 95% CI: 0.98-2.28; I2 = 78%; very low certainty in the evidence). Only one trial evaluated coronaviruses separately and found no difference between the two groups (P = .49).
Indirectness and imprecision of available evidence.
Low certainty evidence suggests that medical masks and N95 respirators offer similar protection against viral respiratory infection including coronavirus in healthcare workers during non-aerosol-generating care. Preservation of N95 respirators for high-risk, aerosol-generating procedures in this pandemic should be considered when in short supply.