State-of-the-Art Biocontainment

Published in Dome - May 2015

Over the past six months, a team of architects, clinical engineers, physicians, nurses and infectious disease experts at The Johns Hopkins Hospital has transformed a deactivated clinical unit into a state-of-the-art biocontainment unit. It is now ready to treat patients with highly infectious diseases, such as Ebola virus disease, bird flu and Middle East respiratory syndrome.

The 7,900-square-foot Biocontainment Unit includes three patient rooms, an on-site laboratory, shower facilities and clean-in/clean-out anterooms for health care providers. Two pass-through autoclave sterilizing machines allow the safe processing of highly infectious waste. The unit’s ventilation system is separate from the rest of the hospital.

Initially proposed last year during Johns Hopkins’ preparation to safely treat patients with Ebola, the unit was designed and constructed specifically to guarantee the safety of patients, families and care teams, according to Lisa Maragakis, medical director of the unit and the Johns Hopkins Health System’s senior director of infection control. It is located in a part of the hospital that was previously the site of a historic and pioneering unit for the care of patients with HIV and AIDS.

Although a unit of its size would typically care for 20 or more patients, the Biocontainment Unit has a maximum capacity of three patients at any given time. The extra space helps regulate the flow of the care team in and out of patient rooms, allowing staff members to don and doff the required personal protective equipment and care for patients without contaminating themselves or others.

Brian Garibaldi, associate director of the unit, says the unit’s most important feature is the group of roughly 100 clinical and nonclinical staff members who have self-selected to undergo rigorous training to safely care for patients with all types of highly infectious diseases, including those transmitted by physical contact, droplets and through the air. When the unit does not have patients, it will be used for education, training and research.

To plan the unit, the Johns Hopkins team consulted with experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the University of Nebraska Medical Center and Emory University Hospital. Staff members also visited similar units at the NIH Clinical Center and University of Nebraska Medical Center, where patients infected with Ebola have been treated successfully.

As seen in the 2016 Biennial Report. Learn more.

Building a Biocontainment Unit

A new, state-of-the-art Biocontainment Unit was constructed at The Johns Hopkins Hospital to safely treat adult and pediatric patients with Ebola virus disease and other highly infectious diseases. When the unit does not have patients, it will be used for education, training and research on infectious diseases.