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Review Advises Hand Washing, Other Antiviral Measures

Last Updated: September 23, 2009.

Hand washing, wearing a mask, and isolating potential cases are all effective in interrupting the spread of viral respiratory infections and should be given greater attention when planning for widespread outbreaks, according to research published Sept. 22 in BMJ.

WEDNESDAY, Sept. 23 (HealthDay News) -- Hand washing, wearing a mask, and isolating potential cases are all effective in interrupting the spread of viral respiratory infections and should be given greater attention when planning for widespread outbreaks, according to research published Sept. 22 in BMJ.

Tom Jefferson, Ph.D., of the Cochrane Collaboration in Rome, and colleagues analyzed data from a systematic review of 58 studies on the prevention of respiratory virus transmission with means such as barriers or hygiene.

A meta-analysis of six studies found that hand washing more than 10 times daily; wearing masks, gloves or gowns; or combining all these approaches are highly effective in preventing the spread of severe acute respiratory syndrome. Good evidence also suggests that hygienic measures among younger children and household members of index cases offer the greatest effect on preventing the spread of respiratory viruses.

"Based on the findings of this review, we recommend that hand washing programs should be implemented nationwide, their effectiveness monitored, and their cost effectiveness evaluated. In situations of high risk of transmission, barrier measures should be implemented such as wearing gloves, gowns, and masks with a filtration apparatus, and isolation of likely cases. Most effort should be concentrated on reducing transmission from young children through regular education at school on hygiene," the authors conclude.

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