Computer Model Anticipates How Disease Spreads in Hospitals

Kirstin Fawcett
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Getting sick in the hospital may seem like a cruel irony, but it’s a tragic reality for thousands of patients who die from infections every year.

According to Popular Science, researchers from the University of Leeds have used computer monitoring and hospital data to figure out how disease circulates in a hospital ward. They identify factors that might contribute to the spread of germs, including ventilation systems, cleaning habits, and healthcare workers’ behavior. This data is then plugged into a model that anticipates disease transmission for a variety of scenarios and settings—like, say, a one-bedroom unit versus a four-bedroom unit.

Not surprisingly, researchers found that both hospital wards and workers’ hands should be washed thoroughly and more often. But PopSci and the BBC also report that hospital rooms with more than one bed in them increased disease transmission by 20 percent.

As Popular Science points out, many patients can’t afford a single hospital room, plus a lot of hospitals simply don’t have the space for them. However, by pinpointing how and why various germs spread, hospital workers can protect high-risk patients from infection and take preemptive steps to eliminate it in the first place. Considering that one in 25 patients ends up with a hospital-acquired infection, these steps are sorely needed. 

 [h/t Popular Science]