Published: May 1, 2018

When an infectious airborne illness strikes, some hospitals use negative pressure rooms to isolate and treat patients. These rooms use ventilation controls to keep germ-filled air contained rather than letting it circulate throughout the hospital. But in the event of an epidemic, these rooms can quickly fill up.

Now, a team at CU Boulder has found a simple, cost-effective way for medical facilities to expand this technique to better prepare for disease outbreaks. By sealing off a whole hospital wing and adjusting the existing ventilation system, hospitals can dramatically increase their capacity to contain and treat large numbers of patients with airborne illnesses.

The study was published in the American Journal of Infection Control.

“You can apply engineering approaches to reduce exposure to all sorts of air pollution,” said lead author Shelly Miller, a professor of mechanical engineering and lead author of the new research. “I’ve been working quite a bit on how we keep infectious diseases from spreading throughout buildings and communities.”