Pharma Focus Asia

Preparing for Patients with High-consequence Infectious Diseases: Example of a High-level Isolation Unit

Frieder Pfäfflin, Miriam Songa Stegemann, Katrin Moira Heim, Stephan Achterberg, Ursula Pfitzner, Louise Götze, Lars Oesterhelweg, Norbert Suttorp, Christian Herzog, Benjamin Stadtmann, Alexander Uhrig


Patients with high-consequence infectious diseases (HCID) are rare in Western Europe. However, high-level isolation units (HLIU) must always be prepared for patient admission. Case fatality rates of HCID can be reduced by providing optimal intensive care management. We here describe a single centre’s preparation, its embedding in the national context and the challenges we faced during the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus type 2 (SARS-CoV-2) pandemic.


Ten team leaders organize monthly whole day trainings for a team of doctors and nurses from the HLIU focusing on intensive care medicine. Impact and relevance of training are assessed by a questionnaire and a perception survey, respectively. Furthermore, yearly exercises with several partner institutions are performed to cover different real-life scenarios. Exercises are evaluated by internal and external observers. Both training sessions and exercises are accompanied by intense feedback.

Working in a HLIU can be challenging in several ways. Wearing full protection PPE is physically strenuous. Vision, sense of hearing, sense of touch, olfaction, and flexibility of movements are greatly impaired. Verbal communication is enabled by technical means, which demand high discipline in communication. Medical tasks, which are performed routinely in everyday settings (e.g. insertion of a central line) may become difficult when wearing PPE in a HLIU.

Citation: Pfäfflin F, Stegemann MS, Heim KM, Achterberg S, Pfitzner U, Götze L, et al. (2022) Preparing for patients with high-consequence infectious diseases: Example of a high-level isolation unit. PLoS ONE 17(3): e0264644.

Editor: Mohd Adnan, University of Hail, SAUDI ARABIA

Received: November 26, 2021; Accepted: February 14, 2022; Published: March 3, 2022.

Copyright: © 2022 Pfäfflin et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

Data Availability: All relevant data are within the paper and its Supporting Information files.

Funding: The authors received no specific funding for this work.

Competing interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

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