Fast-track ventilation strategy to cater for pandemic patient isolation surges

P. L. Yuen, R. Yam, R. Yung, King Lun Tommy Choy

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


Background: The shortage of isolation facilities in hospitals was highlighted during the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) pandemic in 2003. Yet, as the nature and scale of future pandemics cannot be adequately estimated, it is difficult to justify construction of sufficient isolation facilities. A fast-track and cost-effective ventilation strategy for the retrofitting of existing general wards could help hospitals deal with patient surges. Aim: This article reviews the effectiveness of a fast-track, makeshift isolation approach employed during the SARS outbreak which involved installing simple window-mounted exhaust fans to create negative-pressure airflow in hospital general wards. Methods: Computational fluid dynamics (CFD) was used to assess by simulation whether the approach adopted meets US Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention requirements for properly constructed isolation wards. Findings: CFD simulation revealed that this makeshift approach could match the ventilation standards of isolation rooms. The approach was certainly effective as no secondary infections were reported in hospitals that used it during SARS. Conclusions: When there is a shortfall in isolation facilities to accommodate a surge in patients, the proposed ventilation set-up could be quickly and widely implemented by existing general wards.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)246-250
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Hospital Infection
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2012


  • Air ventilation
  • Computational fluid dynamics
  • Infection control
  • Pandemic
  • Severe acute respiratory syndrome
  • Surge capacity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Infectious Diseases

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