Although N95 filtering facepiece respirators and medical masks are commonly used for protection against respiratory infections in healthcare settings, more clinical evidence is needed to understand the optimal settings and exposure circumstances for healthcare personnel to use these devices. A lack of clinically germane research has led to equivocal, and occasionally conflicting, healthcare respiratory protection recommendations from public health organizations, professional societies, and experts.
Radonovich, et al. (2016) describe the Respiratory Protection Effectiveness Clinical Trial (ResPECT), a prospective comparison of respiratory protective equipment to be conducted at multiple U.S. study sites. Healthcare personnel who work in outpatient settings will be cluster-randomized to wear N95 respirators or medical masks for protection against infections during respiratory virus season. Outcome measures will include laboratory-confirmed viral respiratory infections, acute respiratory illness, and influenza-like illness. Participant exposures to patients, coworkers, and others with symptoms and signs of respiratory infection, both within and beyond the workplace, will be recorded in daily diaries. Adherence to study protocols will be monitored by the study team.
ResPECT is designed to better understand the extent to which N95s and MMs reduce clinical illness among healthcare personnel. A fully successful study would produce clinically relevant results that help clinician-leaders make reasoned decisions about protection of healthcare personnel against occupationally acquired respiratory infections and prevention of spread within healthcare systems.
Reference: Radonovich LJ, Bessesen MT, et al. The Respiratory Protection Effectiveness Clinical Trial (ResPECT): a cluster-randomized comparison of respirator and medical mask effectiveness against respiratory infections in healthcare personnel. BMC Infectious Diseases. 2016; 16:243.