Published: July 28, 2017

hospitalEVEN Professor Shelly Miller has recently been published for her new study demonstrating a large-scale 'germ trap' solution for hospitals during a surge of airborne infectious patients. 

Under normal hospital conditions, airborne pathogens can escape patients’ rooms and float around hallways, infecting staff and patients. Epidemics of airborne illnesses, therefore, require quick planning to contain their spread. When faced with the possibility of having to admit many infected patients at once, hospitals have traditionally purchased ventilation-controlled tents, which can cost millions of dollars. Community hospitals often do not have the budget for such measures, forcing patients to travel to larger regional hospitals. 

Fortunately, CU Boulder researchers have 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.

“I think it could be pretty straightforward, and done pretty quickly, for a lot less than it takes to purchase these huge tents,” said Miller.

Most hospitals already have plans for what to do during disease outbreaks. Now, they can incorporate negative pressure wards into these plans, too. Miller said it would just take some extra planning on the part of hospital staff and engineers. This would enable even small community hospitals to be ready for rapidly spreading airborne illnesses.

“I hope the impact of my research will be to improve the understanding of controlling airborne infections, and making sure we can keep people healthier,” said Miller. “That’s the real goal of my work. Airborne pollution causes people to get sick and die—how do we stop that?”

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

Read the full article written by CU Boulder Today here.

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