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Some students are wearing surgical masks on the University of Michigan campus and in the dormitories starting this week as the second year of the M-Flu study gets underway, now that the first confirmed flu case hit campus.
Students from four dormitories on the Ann Arbor campus volunteered to participate in the study, which looks at the efficacy and feasibility of handwashing and wearing masks to stop the spread of the flu over two flu seasons. The two-year study began last year and is funded by a $1.3 million grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Students in dormitories are the perfect study population because they eat, sleep and work in such close confines, said Allison Aiello, assistant professor in the U-M School of Public Health, and co-principal investigator on the study along with Dr. Arnold Monto, professor in the School of Public Health. The results will be used to help shape response policy in the case of a flu pandemic.
"If we know that people will wear their masks, and if we know that they will practice proper hand hygiene, then we know that a pandemic response policy that relies on masks and hand hygiene will be more effective," Aiello said. "We need to have the information first though, in order to avoid response policies based on assumptions rather than rigorous research."
Monto said, "We need to know which non-pharmaceutical interventions will work and which will not before we can know the best way to respond to a pandemic outbreak of influenza."
Each house within participating residence halls will be randomly assigned to one of the three study arms: the face mask only group, the face mask and hand hygiene group, and the control group.
The study intervention will run through six weeks. Preliminary results from last year's study are in and will be made public when the final leg of the study is completed to avoid influencing subjects' behavior, Aiello said.
The study is a partnership between the U-M School of Public Health, University Housing, and the University Health Services.
Source: University of MichiganSchool of Public Health