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Study: Face masks 79% effective in slowing COVID-19 spread at home

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Wearing face masks at home can prevent pre-symptomatic transmission of the new coronavirus in households, according to a new study published in the British Medical Journal.

The findings, based on interviews with Chinese families carried out by doctors and academics in Australia, China and the United States, suggest that "precautionary (non-pharmaceutical interventions), such as mask use, disinfection and social distancing in households can prevent COVID-19 transmission during the pandemic."

The authors, including from the Beijing Centre for Disease Control, contend that the research shows wearing masks at home to be "79% effective at curbing transmission before symptoms emerged in the first person infected."

Four-hundred and sixty members of 124 Beijing families that had at least one confirmed case of the virus were interviewed about domestic prevention measures used before and after the onset of symptoms in a first household member to test positive.

Forty-one of the 124 families saw at least one other case of COVID-19 after a first infection. The authors warned that the practice of mask-wearing "wasn't protective once symptoms had developed."

Curbing family spread of the virus is crucial to wider containment, the authors believe -- describing "household transmission in the pre-symptomatic or early symptomatic period" as "a driver of epidemic growth."

 

"Any measure aimed at reducing this can flatten the curve," they reported.

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