Negative-pressure isolation rooms are required to house patients infected with agents transmissible by the aerosol route in order to minimise exposure of healthcare workers and other patients. Housing patients in a separate room provides a barrier which minimises any physical contact with other patients. An isolation room held at negative pressure to reduce aerosol escape and a high air-change rate to allow rapid removal of aerosols can eliminate transmission of infectious aerosols to those outside the room. However, badly designed and/or incorrectly operating isolation rooms have been shown to place healthcare workers and other patients at risk from airborne diseases such as tuberculosis. Few standards are available for the design of isolation rooms and no pressure differential or air-change rates are specified. Techniques such as aerosol particle tracer sampling and computational fluid dynamics can be applied to study the performance of negative-pressure rooms and to assess how design variables can affect their performance. This should allow cost-effective designs for isolation rooms to be developed. Healthcare staff should be trained to understand how these rooms operate and there should be systems in place to ensure they are functioning correctly.

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Journal of Hospital Infection
Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam

Walker, J.T, Hoffman, P, Bennett, A.M, Voss, A, Thomas, M, & Tomlinson, N. (2007). Hospital and community acquired infection and the built environment - design and testing of infection control rooms. Journal of Hospital Infection, 65(SUPPL. 2), 43–49. doi:10.1016/S0195-6701(07)60014-0