Professional and home-made face masks reduce exposure to respiratory infections among the general population

Marianne van der Sande, Peter Teunis, Rob Sabel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


BACKGROUND: Governments are preparing for a potential influenza pandemic. Therefore they need data to assess the possible impact of interventions. Face-masks worn by the general population could be an accessible and affordable intervention, if effective when worn under routine circumstances.

METHODOLOGY: We assessed transmission reduction potential provided by personal respirators, surgical masks and home-made masks when worn during a variety of activities by healthy volunteers and a simulated patient.

PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: All types of masks reduced aerosol exposure, relatively stable over time, unaffected by duration of wear or type of activity, but with a high degree of individual variation. Personal respirators were more efficient than surgical masks, which were more efficient than home-made masks. Regardless of mask type, children were less well protected. Outward protection (mask wearing by a mechanical head) was less effective than inward protection (mask wearing by healthy volunteers).

CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE: Any type of general mask use is likely to decrease viral exposure and infection risk on a population level, in spite of imperfect fit and imperfect adherence, personal respirators providing most protection. Masks worn by patients may not offer as great a degree of protection against aerosol transmission.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e2618
JournalPLoS ONE [E]
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2008


  • Adult
  • Equipment Failure Analysis
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infection Control
  • Infectious Disease Transmission, Professional-to-Patient
  • Influenza, Human
  • Inhalation Exposure
  • Male
  • Masks
  • Materials Testing
  • Occupational Exposure
  • Population Groups
  • Respiratory Protective Devices


Dive into the research topics of 'Professional and home-made face masks reduce exposure to respiratory infections among the general population'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this