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Better hygiene measures needed to combat swine flu, researchers argue

By Lilian Anekwe

More emphasis should be placed on ‘physical hygiene measures' if the Government wants to reduce the spread of the swine flu pandemic this winter, according to researchers

Methods such as frequent handwashing, wearing masks and isolating potentially infected patients are highly effective in preventing the spread of viral infections, including influenza, and should be given higher priority in national pandemic preparation plans, according to a systematic review by the acute respiratory infections group at the Cochrane library.

Their analysis of six case control studies found washing hands more than 10 times a day and wearing masks, gloves and gowns were effective individually against all forms of acute infectious respiratory disease.

The measures were more effective when combined, and only three patients would need to be treated in this way to prevent one case of respiratory disease.

The highest quality trials suggested that spread of respiratory viruses can best be prevented by hygienic measures in younger children and within households, though whether implementing the measures in children would be practicable is debatable.

Dr Tom Jefferson, coordinator of the Cochrane Collaboration in Rome, concluded in the BMJ published today that governments should invest more in promoting hygiene to minimise the spread of swine flu.

‘Many simple and low cost interventions reduce the transmission of epidemic respiratory viruses.'

'More resources should be invested into studying which physical interventions are the most effective, flexible, and cost-effective means of minimising the impact of acute respiratory tract infections.'

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