Texas Children's Hospital isolation unit opens to contain contagious diseases

Unit functions as regular rooms unless disease enters


HOUSTON – It's been more than a year since Texas was in the international spotlight for being ground zero for our country's battle against Ebola. It sent hospitals scrambling to protect patients and caregivers in ways they'd never considered before.

The thing citizens were least equipped to handle was caring for children. That changes today.

"Children, unfortunately, were not able to be housed in a special isolation unit prior to this unit, and so now we have the capacity to meet the response," Texas Children's Hospital Associate Medical Director of the Special Isolation Unit Dr. Judith Campbell said.

Looking for the best ways to contain highly contagious illnesses, Texas Children's West Campus came up with a plan.

"We like to run toward the problem," Physician in Chief of Texas Children's Hospital Mark Kline said. "We know there are a number of diseases that have emerged from the developing world over the past years and there will be more."

The isolation unit is unique. It isn't wasting any space and it can function as a regular room unless a disease like Ebola, MERS or SARS enters.

"It looks like an ordinary room, but we have secured doors, so if we go into special isolation mode, only members of the special response team have access to this area," Campbell said.

The doors would then be sealed. The air doesn't circulate, but instead gets filtered and removed from the hospital, and all of the waste -- bedsheets, needles and masks -- are taken to be sterilized before they are disposed.

It's like a hospital of the future, prepared to take on whatever the future may bring.

"With jet travel being what it is, the world is smaller than ever before and those conditions that are in Africa or Asia could be in Houston, Texas, tomorrow," Kline said.