Good hand-washing with normal soap and water are effective ways of containing respiratory virus epidemics, according to a Cochrane Review.

“There is a strong indication that introducing hygienic measures around younger children can be a very powerful way of blocking spread, protecting them and the community they live in,” says lead researcher Tom Jefferson, MD, PhD, from Rome, Italy.

The researchers were uncertain about whether adding chemicals that kill bacteria and viruses to soap made them any more effective at preventing transmission than normal soap. The team also concluded that there was little if any evidence that expensive and uncomfortable N95 masks were any better than simple surgical masks.

“Many simple and probably low-cost interventions could help reduce transmission of epidemic respiratory viruses,” says Jefferson.