Have you ever wondered how hospitals and healthcare facilities stop infections from spreading between patients—especially when those infections are airborne?
The COVID-19 pandemic has increased public awareness about airborne infection. As a society, we have become more vigilant about preventing airborne germs from passing from person to person using methods such as masks, distanced socialization and ventilation. While these practices may be new for many, the need to control airborne infection is not new, especially for healthcare facilities.
Every time you visit a hospital, it is likely that someone in the building is carrying an airborne infection and is coughing or sneezing germs into the air. Yet, prior to the 2020 coronavirus pandemic, few hospital staff and visitors regularly wore masks. To understand why this is the case, we will need to take a quick detour into the engineering realm to see how hospitals mitigate and control airborne infection risk.
Hospitals and other buildings have heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems to bring fresh air into a building, heat or cool it for comfort, and move it through each room. In large buildings, these HVAC systems can be very complex and have to be carefully engineered to ensure that every room has a steady flow of air.While one fan is forcing air into a room, another is drawing it out. However, these fans are not always pushing and pulling the same amount of air. When a room is supplied more air than it exhausts, that room has a slightly increased air pressure. HVAC engineers call this “positive air pressure.” Similarly, if the fans are pulling air from the room faster than new air is entering, the room is said to have “negative air pressure.”
Hospitals do not want air from a room containing a coughing and sneezing person with a known pathogen to flow into rooms containing healthy people. Rooms and suites in healthcare facilities are therefore often designed with negative air pressure. This way, the chances of germs circulating through the building are reduced and infection risk is controlled.
Life Balance Technologies helps hospitals and other companies easily analyze air quality conditions and effectively manage their HVAC systems. By streamlining the process for compliance, auditing, and reporting, we help reduce costs and save lives.