The Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL), of Laurel, in collaboration with the Johns Hopkins Armstrong Institute for Patient Safety and Quality, in Baltimore, is initiating a study sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to conduct an extensive characterization and analysis of aerosol generation in health care settings. The goal of reducing the exposure of frontline health care workers and patients to potentially infectious aerosols.

The two-year APL effort is part of Project Firstline, a CDC initiative aimed at training and empowering every member of the U.S. health care workforce with the infection control knowledge to implement actions that protect themselves, their facility and their community.

While clearly valuable for the current COVID-19 response, Project Firstline addresses the ongoing need for infection control training, education and innovation for the wide array of routine infectious risks encountered every day in health care settings.

APL will leverage its extensive capabilities in aerosol science, biology and miniature sensors on one of the most crucial tasks in this effort: characterizing air and aerosol movement in clinical environments.

Air and aerosol movement have been documented as contributors to health care-associated infections, including those related to surgical procedures in operating rooms. However, there hasn’t been a detailed study of how and where air and aerosols move in surgical settings.

“We will apply a combination of advanced sensing approaches – airspeed anemometers, aerosol detectors, video and motion capture recordings, light detection and ranging, temperature sensors, etc. – to better understand the built environment and human factors that influence air movement,” said Brian Damit, project manager and a research scientist in APL’s National Health Mission Area. “This data will ultimately help us develop actionable solutions for health care providers to minimize the negative effects of air movement for patients and health care personnel.”