Preventing Aspergillus Infection during Hospital Construction Work

What is Aspergillus?

  • Aspergillus is a tiny fungus that cannot be seen by the eye but commonly occurs in soil, water and decaying vegetation
  • It can also live in old buildings or in areas such as ventilation shafts
  • Many types of Aspergillus are found in nature but only a few cause infection in humans

Why is it a problem during hospital construction work?

  • Aspergillus may be released into the air during hospital construction / renovation activities (e.g. demolition, renovation, construction work)
  • Aspergillus can be transported great distances by normal conditions such as air currents and wind.  However, small pieces of dirt or dust in the air are the main ways that Aspergillus travels.

For most people this causes no threat to their health. However, certain hospital patients who have weakened immune systems (immunosuppressed patients) may be at risk of developing infection with aspergillus in the lungs or other parts of the body if they inhale it. This infection is called invasive aspergillosis.

Immunosuppressed patients include:

  • Patients on chemotherapy
  • Patients having bone marrow, stem cell or other transplants,
  • Patients having other forms of therapy which may interfere with their immune system

Healthy adults and children are not at increased risk of infection from aspergillus during construction work.

Can patients be protected during hospital building work?
Yes, guidelines to control invasive aspergillosis during hospital construction / renovation activities were developed in 2002 by a sub-committee of the HPSC and are available to view and download here. These guidelines are currently under review by a sub-committee established in 2011.

Created: August 2006

Last reviewed: 14th August 2007