Fears drove decision on pandemic masks

HEALTH professionals’ anxiety, rather than science, was the driver for advice to wear P2 masks rather than surgical masks during the swine flu pandemic, an expert claims.

Professor Mary-Louise McLaws, who was commissioned by the Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing to review the protectiveness of masks, said she found no evidence that the more expensive P2 masks were superior for routine care of patients.

But “local clinicians” unanimously disputed her recommendation that surgical masks were adequate within a multi-pronged infection control strategy which included face shields for eye protection and antiviral prophylaxis, she wrote in an editorial in the Medical Journal of Australia.

“I’m wanting to set the record straight,” Professor McLaws, an epidemiologist and infectious disease control expert from the University of NSW, told MO.

“What I’m adamant about is people