Hygiene ‘better way to fight pandemic’ November 28, 2007Posted by Dreamhealer in Research.
The effectiveness of simple measures such as hand-washing and wearing of surgical masks has been confirmed by an international study of ways to reduce the spread of respiratory viruses.
Such simple ‘barrier’ measures could work better than drugs to fight the spread of diseases such as influenza and SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome), the researchers said.
The study results, from a team in Italy and Australia, are published in the British Medical Journal’s online edition.
Their argument that wearing rubber gloves and attending to hygiene could work better than anti-viral medicines was released as the British government announced it was doubling its stockpile of such drugs in preparation for a possible flu pandemic. But simple, low-cost measures should be given priority in national pandemic preparation, the researchers say.
Yesterday the Irish Department of Health announced that the European Centre for Disease Control had found its preparations for an outbreak of avian flu, for example, were ahead of most other European countries.
Professor Chris Del Mar of Bond University in Australia, who led the BMJ study, said mounting evidence suggested that vaccines and anti-viral drugs would not be sufficient to interrupt the spread of influenza or SARS.
His colleagues reviewed 51 published studies on the effect of simple physical measures to combat the spread of respiratory viruses.
They excluded vaccines and anti-viral drugs, but assessed reports on all other interventions to stop animal-to-human or human-to-human transmission. These included isolation, quarantine, barriers such as masks and gloves, and hygiene.
Hand-washing and the wearing of masks, gloves and gowns worked well individually in stopping the spread of viruses, and were even more effective when combined.
A BMJ editorial accompanying the article says governments should have commissioned such a study years ago because pandemic flu is such a potential catastrophe.