Abstract

Background: Respiratory protective equipment recommended in the UK for healthcare workers (HCWs) caring for patients with COVID-19 comprises a fluid-resistant surgical mask (FRSM), except in the context of aerosol generating procedures (AGPs). We previously demonstrated frequent pauci- and asymptomatic severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 infection HCWs during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in the UK, using a comprehensive PCR-based HCW screening programme (Rivett et al., 2020; Jones et al., 2020). Methods: Here, we use observational data and mathematical modelling to analyse infection rates amongst HCWs working on ‘red’ (coronavirus disease 2019, COVID-19) and ‘green’ (non-COVID-19) wards during the second wave of the pandemic, before and after the substitution of filtering face piece 3 (FFP3) respirators for FRSMs. Results: Whilst using FRSMs, HCWs working on red wards faced an approximately 31-fold (and at least fivefold) increased risk of direct, ward-based infection. Conversely, after changing to FFP3 respirators, this risk was significantly reduced (52–100% protection). Conclusions: FFP3 respirators may therefore provide more effective protection than FRSMs for HCWs caring for patients with COVID-19, whether or not AGPs are undertaken. Funding: Wellcome Trust, Medical Research Council, Addenbrooke’s Charitable Trust, NIHR Cambridge Biomedical Research Centre, NHS Blood and Transfusion, UKRI.

Rights

Available under License Creative Commons Attribution.

Cite as

Ferris, M., Ferris, R., Workman, C., O'Connor, E., Enoch, D., Goldesgeyme, E., Quinnell, N., Patel, P., Wright, J., Martell, G., Moody, C., Shaw, A., Illingworth, C., Matheson, N. & Weekes, M. 2021, 'Efficacy of FFP3 respirators for prevention of SARS-CoV-2 infection in healthcare workers', eLife, 10 , article no: e71131. http://dx.doi.org/10.7554/elife.71131

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Last updated: 16 June 2022
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