"In the UK, one in 15 patients contract an infection when in hospital. Cath Noakes and Marco-Felipe King from the University of Leeds, have investigated the role building design and ventilation play in the risk of patients contracting infections. They simulated airflow and particle movement. They compared single rooms and four-bed rooms. And they considered where patients are placed when they were infectious." Cath Noakes thinks "about 20% of these may be related to the air and the environment in that building, and it costs the NHS hundreds of millions of pounds every year."
By modelling air current distribution of micro-organisms, these researchers found that surfaces, perhaps many metres away from the patient, could potentially be contaminated and without people's knowledge. People touching those surfaces could pick up pathogens on their hands and spread infection. The researchers think that perhaps their models could be used to look at the most risky parts of a hospital and at where there is the biggest concern about vulnerable patients - like us!
Australia's Radio National Science Show Podcast: