Closed windows increases infection risk
Sufficient air flow may be a key to reducing infections in hospitals, according to new research from the University of Leeds in England. The report found that air flow in traditional hospital wards has the potential to dramatically lower the risk of infection.
The researchers used a combination of computer modeling and experiments to map the passage of air and germs. The experiments utilized balloons filled with carbon dioxide to represent an airborne pathogen. When the balloons were popped, tracers were used to track its flow through hospital wards. Smoke sticks were also used to track the passage of air and wind streams.
The results indicated that while more modern wards have accounted for air flow dynamics, older sections of hospitals may require windows to be opened to ensure appropriate ventilation. When the windows were closed and didn’t provide alternative ventilation, risk of infection could go up fourfold, according to the researchers.
The study found that using "little extractor fans" – like those found in your bathroom at home – were also very helpful in increasing air flow.
These findings could be useful both in hospitals with older wards and in household settings, where collections of germs could extend the life of an infection or spread it to other inhabitants.