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The potential for face masks to guard against the airborne transmission of the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu are being tested at a university in the US.

Students at the University of Michigan are wearing protective face masks through the traditional flu season, when flu infections are at their peak, along with the use of hand-washes, to test its effect on infection rates, Reuters reports.

The experiment will work by giving different groups of students on the campus differing levels of protection, with one group getting none.

Epidmiology assistant professor Allison Aiello told Reuters: 'It's going to be a group effort, that's for sure,' explaining that the close proximity in which the students are living to each other makes the campus an ideal testing ground.

Study leader, Professor Arnold Monto, told CBC news: 'There is some anecdotal evidence from prior pandemic outbreaks that masks may have helped, but no firm data.'

If the study shows face masks to be effective, there may be a major increase in sales of the protective equipment, particularly if a mutant form of the virus begins spreading between humans, sparking a pandemic.

track© Adfero Ltd

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