The best way to avoid spreading disease is by preventing contact between infected and uninfected persons. Disease containment is never easy, as people are rarely isolated from each other in normal situations. In a hospital setting, where staff, visitors and other patients are together in an enclosed building, infection can spread easily through:
Direct contact between people
Indirect contact on common surfaces
Benefits of Negative Air Pressure
The health industry may use negative air pressure to help prevent the spread of disease through airborne particles. It is especially beneficial at times when an illness spreads rapidly, such as during flu season, or when a novel virus such as COVID-19 erupts among populations with no antibodies.
How an Isolation Room Works
Air is pulled into the isolation room with a machine and filtered before it is pumped out of the building. The air pressure inside the room is lower than outside, meaning contaminated air will not flow out when the door is opened. Controlling the air flow allows for containment that avoids spreading infection elsewhere in the building.
What to Expect in an Isolation Room
A patient may hear or feel air being sucked into the room under a door or through a cracked window. The door may need to be kept closed to help prevent contaminated air from escaping. Others entering the room will be protected with gowns, gloves and masks. The patient may need to stay in the room at all times except for procedures or tests that cannot take place in the room.
Uses in Other Settings
Beyond isolation rooms, negative pressure is used by the health industry in other places to control the spread of infection. Common areas with high-touch surfaces, such as bathrooms and waiting areas, may benefit from negative air pressure.
While hand washing and social distancing are the best methods to minimize disease spread during times of rapid spread, negative pressure is a useful tool for the containment of infection in a healthcare setting.