Masks for prevention of respiratory viruses on the BMT unit: results of a quality initiative

Kelsey A. Sokol, Imelda De la Vega-Diaz, Kathleen Edmondson-Martin, Sara Kim, Sharon Tindle, Fran Wallach, Amir Steinberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Respiratory viral infections (RVI) cause significant morbidity and mortality in hospitalized oncology patients. These viruses are easily spread from asymptomatic and/or symptomatic healthcare workers and visitors to immunocompromised patients, and literature review of facemasks for prevention of infection revealed mixed results. The Bone Marrow Transplant (BMT) Quality Assurance (QA) Committee at Mount Sinai began a surgical mask initiative on the BMT unit. The purpose of our initiative was to assess the impact of surgical mask implementation for healthcare workers and visitors on nosocomial RVI in all patients hospitalized on the BMT unit. We hypothesized that implementing surgical masks would reduce the number of hospital-acquired RVI. We performed a retrospective study involving all patients with malignancy hospitalized on the BMT unit for 4 years. During the latter 2 years, all healthcare workers and visitors were required to wear a surgical mask in every patient room on the BMT unit. Primary endpoint was incidence of RVI after implementation of surgical masks. The 2-year incidence of RVI in the pre-mask period was 14 out of a total of 15 001 patient days on the unit vs 2 out of 15 608 patient days after mask implementation. The difference in incidence of RVI within the two time intervals was noted to be statistically significant (P<.05, 2-proportion z-test). Our quality initiative demonstrated that surgical masks are an infection control modality that may provide benefit to oncology/BMT units by decreasing the risk for hospital-acquired RVI.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)965-967
Number of pages3
JournalTransplant Infectious Disease
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • nosocomial infections
  • oncology
  • prevention
  • quality initiative
  • respiratory viral infection
  • surgical mask


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