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Simple Techniques Can Control Respiratory Infections

Personal hygiene, barrier measures and isolation of infected persons recommended

WEDNESDAY, Nov. 28 (HealthDay News) -- Handwashing, wearing gloves, gowns and masks, and isolation of infected people are effective measures for reducing the spread of respiratory tract infections, according to a review of studies published Nov. 27 in BMJ Online First.

Tom Jefferson, Ph.D., of the Cochrane Vaccines Field in Alessandria, Italy, and colleagues scanned medical databases for reports on public health interventions to control the spread of respiratory viruses. A total of 138 papers, completed in a variety of institutional and non-institutional settings over a span of four decades, were reviewed. Vaccine and antiviral interventions were excluded. The authors report that the quality of the studies was highly mixed.

Simple public health measures seemed to be most effective at reducing virus transmission, especially when implemented as part of a structured program that included education and instruction. Successful techniques included frequent handwashing (with or without antiseptics), wearing masks, gowns and gloves, and isolating people who might be infected. Combining these measures produced the best results.

An accompanying editorial by Martin Dawes, M.D., of McGill University in Montreal, Canada, concludes, "Governments should continue to fund research to confirm the findings of this review and to investigate other areas of uncertainty that it identifies in the management of people with suspected influenza."

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