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A newly released meta-analysis on the use of face masks for reducing the transmission of viral respiratory infections within community settings shows the evidence for their effectiveness is equivocal at best.
Titled, “Face masks to prevent community transmission of viral respiratory infections: A rapid evidence review using Bayesian analysis,” the study analyzed eleven randomized, controlled trials and 10 observational studies, concluding:
“Available evidence from RCTs is equivocal as to whether or not wearing face masks in community settings results in a reduction in clinically- or laboratory-confirmed viral respiratory infections. No relevant studies concerned SARS-CoV-2 or were undertaken in community settings in the UK.”
Here is an example they provided of the highly equivocal nature of their study findings:
“One study found lower rates of self-reported symptoms of influenza-like illness (ILI) in the intervention compared with the control arm; however, in secondary analyses with laboratory-confirmed ILI, the rate of infection was less in the control arm than the intervention arm.”
The researchers pointed out that there is considerable controversy on the topic of the effectiveness of mask wearing, and proper risk/benefit analyses should be conducted given their implications to health policy.
They noted that while face masks filter droplets believed to contain viruses like SARS-CoV-2, they also have a number of drawbacks. For instance, if not used correctly, they:
“...may even increase transmission if they act as fomites [objects or materials which are likely to carry infection] or prompt other behaviours that transmit the virus such as face touching. For example, a face mask that has been worn for several hours becomes moist and acts as a potential source of contamination. Studies show that people touch their faces 15-23 times per hour on average (9,10), and this may mean that eyes and contaminated face masks are touched, spreading the virus."
The researchers commented on the implications of their findings for policy and practice:
"While the potentially biased self-reported outcomes from RCTs suggest a small benefit of face mask wearing, findings on clinically- and laboratory-confirmed infection remain equivocal. In addition, none of the studies concerned SARS-CoV-2 and none were conducted in the UK. All were in community settings that were different in many respects from the situation pertaining to SARS-CoV-2 in the UK. In light of this, judgements about the benefits or harms of wearing face masks will have to be made using a priori arguments rather than the data reviewed here: the scientific evidence should be considered equivocal. Such arguments should pay special attention to specific settings where the risk of infection is high and the opportunity for physical distancing is low (e.g. on crowded public transport), and to the need for education and training to maximise the potential benefits of wearing masks and mitigate the risk that they will transmit infection by acting as fomites."
This study was the subject of a recent article titled, "Four potential consequences of wearing face masks we need to be wary of" published on www.theconversation.com, and which is well worth reading.
Clearly, in a time and age when mandatory medical interventions, including so-called non-pharmaceutical interventions such as social distancing, hand-washing, and mask wearing, are increasingly being implemented and institutionalized under the auspices of the public safety, we need to let the evidence itself (and not simply fear and a desire to control) guide these public health decisions and policies. When the evidence of safety and effectiveness is lacking, or worse, when there is evidence of unsafety and ineffectiveness, it is our job to inform ourselves and others, and not consent to unethical, unlawful, or unconstitutional orders that violate our health and bodily sovereignty. Join the non-profit, health freedom advocacy project www.Standforhealthfreedom.com to learn more about your rights and what you can do to protect them.