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Circling the Dome

If the Worst Happens…

diagram of biocontainment unit

The illustration shows a portion of the new biocontainment unit

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  1. Patient rooms have dedicated space for donning (green) and doffing (yellow) personal protective equipment. This layout allows for unidirectional flow to reduce the chance of cross-contamination.
  2. One of the three private patient rooms that allow for critical care activities.
  3. An on-site laboratory allows for safe and rapid diagnostic testing in special biosafety hoods. The lab also has separate donning and doffing rooms.
  4. The staff entrance provides showering facilities and serves as a clean-in/clean-out anteroom for the entire unit.
  5. The special air-handling system on the unit allows for the care of patients infected by pathogens that are transmitted via the airborne route.

In the midst of the panic over the spread of Ebola virus disease in West Africa last fall, hospitals and health care systems around the country—including the Johns Hopkins Health System—quickly prepared to safely care for patients with the disease.

It soon became clear to planners that a designated space away from other clinical areas was needed. For the past six months, a team of architects, clinical engineers, physicians, nurses and infectious disease experts have worked feverishly to transform a deactivated clinical unit at The Johns Hopkins Hospital (formerly used for patients with HIV and AIDS) into a state-of-the-art Biocontainment Unit. Recently opened, the unit stands ready to treat adult and pediatric patients with Ebola and other highly infectious diseases, such as bird flu and Middle East respiratory syndrome.

The new Biocontainment Unit was designed and constructed specifically to safely care for patients with highly infectious diseases without compromising the health and safety of other patients, families and care teams, according to Lisa Maragakis, medical director of the unit and the health system’s senior director of infection prevention.

The 7,900-square-foot unit includes three patient rooms, an on-site laboratory and capability to perform routine surgical procedures, as well as showers and clean-in/clean-out anterooms for health care providers. The unit’s ventilation system is separate from the rest of the hospital, and two pass-through autoclaves allow for the safe and effective handling of highly infectious medical waste.

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

Brian Garibaldi, associate director of the unit, says the unit’s most important feature is the 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.

When the unit does not have patients, it will be used for education, training and further research on infectious diseases.  

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.

Biocontainment Unit Virtual Tour

The new, state-of-the-art Biocontainment Unit at The Johns Hopkins Hospital is prepared to safely care for adult and pediatric patients with highly infectious diseases, without compromising the health and safety of other patients, families and care teams. The 7,900-square-foot unit includes three patient rooms, an on-site laboratory, capability to perform routine surgical procedures as well as showers and clean-in/clean-out anterooms for health care providers. The unit’s ventilation system is separate from the rest of the hospital and two pass-through autoclaves allow for the safe and effective handling of highly infectious medical waste.