Effectiveness of manufactured surgical masks, respirators, and home-made masks in prevention of respiratory infection due to airborne microorganisms

According to a Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimate, the health sector would require about 1.5 billion face masks plus 90 million respirators, and the public would need around 1.1 billion masks for a six-week influenza pandemic.1 As the current COVID-19 pandemic unfolds, concerns have been raised over depletion of medical supplies, including face masks. This has led to recommendations for healthcare personnel (HCP) to apply extended use and limited re-use strategies with face masks.2 In addition, the general population’s response is mounting with persons making their own face masks for self-protection. This article aims to provide more detailed scientific information regarding the effectiveness and reusability of medical/surgical masks, respirators, and homemade masks. Data have been collected from various journals and different studies listed in PubMed and the Cochrane Library. The CDC and the World Health Organization’s (WHO) guidelines were also used extensively, as well as broader web searches of the English literature for up to date information.