Potential airborne pathogen transmission in a hospital with and without surge control ventilation system modifications

We recently published a technical note in Building and Environment on airborne pathogen containment during a surge emergency.  Authors are

  • Francis J. Offermanna,
  • Aaron Eaganc,
  • Aidan C. Offermanna,
  • Shobha S. Subhashc,
  • Shelly L. Millerb,
  • Lewis J. Radonovichc
  • a Indoor Environmental Engineering, San Francisco, CA, USA
  • b Mechanical Engineering, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO, USA
  • c National Center for Occupational Health and Infection Control, US Department of Veterans Affairs, USA


To better understand the transport of airborne particulate matter (PM) in hospital environments when surge control strategies are implemented, tests were conducted in a recently decommissioned hospital during a one-week period. An aerosol was released within a patient room and concentrations measured in the room and hallway with and without surge control ventilation system modifications. The average hallway protection efficiencies were high (>98%) both for the baseline ventilation configuration and when the ventilation system was modified for whole floor negative pressure, indicating very little PM reached the hallway. During entry/exit events through the patient room door into the hallway, the average minimum hallway protection efficiencies were lower during the modified ventilation operation (93–94%) than for the baseline operation (98–99%). These lower hallway protection efficiencies may be explained by the 52% reduction in the outdoor air ventilation being supplied to the hallway during the modified operation mode. This suggests that patient room doors should remain closed to control PM movement into the hallway. In addition, if there is concern about airborne infection transmission, an anteroom may be used to further reduce the transport of particles from the patient rooms to the hallways of the ward.