Temporary Barriers Prevent the Spread of Infection

In hospitals across the U.S., it's critical for contractors and healthcare providers alike to manage and monitor indoor air quality to prevent the spread of infections.

Staff, visitors and patients must be protected against exposure to potentially harmful airborne particulates. Patients with compromised immune systems are at the greatest risk. Common airborne organisms such as mold spores are potentially dangerous, as are infectious diseases such as mycobacterium tuberculosis, SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) and avian flu influenza.


Always a key issue, infection control gained even greater urgency with news in August 2007 that Medicare will no longer pay for treatment of "conditions that could reasonably have been prevented," including hospital acquired infections.

Here are four steps to help prevent the spread of harmful airborne particulates and maintain safe, comfortable air quality:

  • Establish physical barriers to isolate potential sources of harmful airborne particulates: patients with indicators of infectious diseases, wall and ceiling-based repair, or renovation of cavity and plenum.
  • Control air pressure to ensure air moves from clean to dirty environments.
  • HEPA-filter the air to remove airborne particles.
  • Monitor and verify performance using air pressure/flow testers and airborne particle counters.

Of course, just because these steps are straightforward doesn't mean they're easy. Constant diligence is required to make sure indoor air systems are operating correctly, proper airflow is being maintained and best practices are being followed. If a disaster or casualty event affected many people in a community, local hospital permanent isolation rooms could easily be overwhelmed.

Temporary isolation solutions are needed for patients that cannot be easily relocated to permanent Airborne Infection Isolation (AII) rooms or when these rooms are occupied. They are also a necessity for any jobs that generate airborne particulates in or near patient areas.
Contractors play a central role. They must ensure that their work is isolated from the patient environment so air in patient areas is not compromised by airborne contaminants.

Under guidelines of the American Institute of Architects and the Joint Commission, even minor construction and maintenance projects require an Infection Control Risk Assessment (ICRA). Contractors will work closely with the healthcare facility's infection control practitioner to assess the risks, agree on countermeasures and report on performance during the project.

Assessing the Level of Risk

The level of infection risk depends on the disruption required for a project (painting poses little risk, while heavy demolition and new construction is much more risky) as well as the sensitivity of the area affected (office areas are low risk, while intensive care, burn units and AII facilities are highest risk). The combined level of risk determines the infection controls necessary for a project. The ICRA panel must inspect the installation of infection control measures and monitor their effectiveness throughout the project.

How can hospital staff and the contractor be sure their preventive measures are working?

Controlling Contaminants

Mintie manufactures the collapsible, portable Environmental Containment Unit (ECU) product line for temporary isolation. Set-up averages 15 minutes or less, allowing for quick response or redeployment. All ECU products require minimal storage space and do not require any building modifications. The product line provides cost-effective compliance due to unit durability and multi-functionality.


Temporary isolation barriers help prevent the spread of airborne infection contaminants during a public health emergency or during scheduled maintenance procedures.

The ECU products meet all relevant standards for control of airborne contaminants in healthcare facility settings. Designed with negative air machines and HEPA filtration, they ensure that the target area is contained and discharge air is safe. These products can be used to quickly and easily isolate general population patient rooms, entire hospital wings or worksites.

The ECU2 is a modular system; multiple units can be combined to create customized containment space. Units are designed with both wall and ceiling access points.

  1. The Corridor Flange™ Accessory allows a hallway to function as a separation point for containing large areas. Independently it can be used for dust control. Used with an ECU2 anteroom, it allows for mass patient isolation or safe entry and exit of workers from a construction area.
  2. The ECU Ceiling Cavity controls the spread of dust and airborne contaminants when performing building maintenance functions and other projects above the ceiling cavity.

Information courtesy Mintie Corporation and Fluke Corporation.

Related Link www.grainger.com/healthcare