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Nosocomial infections and air in hospitals. How to identify and measure infection risks.

Published on 2 December, 2022

Indoor air quality,

In hospitals, air and in particular, particulate matter is the major vehicle for the transmission of microorganisms through different areas. Measuring the risks automatically through the different air parameters makes it possible to identify in real time which areas of a hospital or healthcare center pose an environmental biosafety risk for patients and healthcare personnel at any given time.

Nosocomial infections and air in hospitals

Three conditions are necessary to increase the risk of nosocomial infection at any point in a hospital. On the one hand, there must be a pathogenic microorganism whose origin lies in different sources, an element that allows its movement through elements present in the air such as particulate matter (dust, for example). And conditions of temperature, humidity and atmospheric pressure that promote or facilitate the survival of the pathogenic microorganism or its development.

The importance of measuring risk in real time

In the air we find different elements that we can measure in real time in a simple and automatic way and that can indicate whether in a hospital area the risk of nosocomial infection transmission is higher or lower. Precisely for this reason certain areas of hospitals are divided into clean rooms or dirty rooms and hence the need to detect in time and measure the risk preventively and effectively those elements in the air that allow the spread of pathogens in order to detect the risk of nosocomial infection.

Particulate matter and hospital works

Construction and maintenance work in a hospital is common and any construction site generates particulate matter. It is not necessarily necessary to resort to major construction or remodeling work in the hospital to be faced with a risk of microbiological contamination through particulate matter in the air. A simple repair of a ceiling in a corridor can already be a problem.

Why is it important to control particulate matter in the hospital?

Most microbiological contamination is associated with non-viable particles in the air, i.e. inert particles such as dust that serve as protective and transport elements for fungal spores, nosocomial pathogens, Micrococcus or Bacillus among others. The measurement of particulate matter allows:

  • Detect abnormal sources of particulate matter in a hospital area in real time.
  • Detect if particulate matter is near or has already reached sensitive areas such as clean rooms or clean rooms.
  • Identify if a filtration system is not working properly due to particulate matter remaining in an area for a long period of time.

Hospital IAQ

Other parameters. Beyond CO2

Air quality in a hospital and, in general, in any indoor environment is determined by parameters such as CO and volatile organic compounds, in addition to the CO2 and particulate matter discussed above. During the Covid-19 pandemic, the use of CO2 meters became popular to determine if at any given time there were many people in a space and to control gauging, but this alone does not determine air quality.

  • Abnormal levels of CO, the source of which is usually from outside air brought into the hospital, can indicate problems in certain areas with ventilation systems.
  • High values of volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) would indicate gaseous chemical agents present in the environment above normal values.
  • CO2, as mentioned above, would be used to monitor how many people are in a hospital space at any given time. It can be useful to control capacity in times of high incidence of influenza or respiratory diseases in areas such as waiting rooms.

Pressure and sealing in critical zones

Different areas of the hospital have positive and negative pressure systems that prevent air circulation from serving as a vector for the transmission of pathogenic microorganisms present in the environment (operating rooms, burn units, etc.). By means of atmospheric pressure we can immediately detect if the airtightness in any area of the hospital is failing with respect to its adjoining spaces.

Temperature, humidity and environmental comfort

Temperature and humidity are two parameters that, in addition to environmental comfort, allow us to know whether in a certain area of the hospital there are environmental conditions conducive to patient recovery or to the generation and proliferation of pathogens such as molds. In addition, the analysis of these parameters in a given area serves as a sampling point or verification of the correct operation of air conditioning systems not only from the point of view of environmental safety but also from the perspective of energy efficiency.

Continuous supervision and monitoring

The time it takes to detect a problem with any air quality parameter is directly proportional to the severity of the consequences for hospital users. For this reason, having IoT devices independent of HVAC (air conditioning, heating and ventilation) systems that report if any air quality parameter is altered or out of acceptable ranges will allow identifying the problem in real time and before more serious consequences are generated.

co, co2, covs, pm

Hospital indoor air quality monitor Nanoenvi IAQ

Nanoenvi IAQ is an indoor air quality monitor, a maintenance-free Wi-Fi device whose function is to measure and send data on those parameters that determine air quality. Having the air quality data in an automated way allows a hospital to:

  • Create alerts that are immediately sent to staff as soon as a parameter deviates from normal values.
  • Optimize its maintenance and prevention plans.
  • Improve hygiene safety controls.
  • Create periodic reports on the air quality status of each area of the hospital.
  • Advise management on action plans for works and facilities, periods of high incidence of influenza or respiratory transmitted diseases.

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