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Key Projects of COHIC

Staff members at the National Center for Occupational Health and Infection Control (COHIC) are engaged in a growing number of projects that seek to:

  • Improve and demonstrate ways to prevent healthcare-associated transmission of influenza
  • Identify and practice ways to diminish the spread of viral respiratory infections among VA health care workers
  • Improve and validate means of ventilation control to diminish the occurrence of infectious diseases in VA health care facilities
  • Implement new and improved methods of engineering infection control to save energy for VA
  • Identify and exhibit ways to interrupt transmission of antibiotic-resistant pathogens between Veteran patients and VA employees
  • Build and put into practice new education tools designed to improve infection prevention and control practices

Below is a partial list of key projects the COHIC is currently working on. For more information on these or other projects, contact the COHIC.


Project B.R.E.A.T.H.E. logo

Project BREATHE, Better Respiratory Equipment using Advanced Technologies for Healthcare Employees, is an interagency effort of the U.S. Federal government, chaired by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

COHIC seeks to shepherd one or more new respirators for health care workers to the U.S. marketplace. Prototype development is in process, based on 28 performance requirements drafted by the interagency working group and in collaboration with one or more U.S. respirator manufacturers. Read the report from the interagency working group (497 KB, PDF) to learn more.

Respiratory Protection Effectiveness Clinical Trial - ResPECT

Logo for the Respiratory Protection Effectiveness Clinical Trial - ResPECT

This multi-center, randomized clinical trial will assess the relative effectiveness of N95 respirators, surgical masks, and current practices in protecting health care workers (HCWs) against influenza and other respiratory illnesses.

The current protocol would enroll 2,200 plus HCWs over three influenza seasons in order to detect whether there is a statistically significant difference in protective effect. Despite recently published data, questions remain about protective value of surgical masks versus N95 respirators.

Pandemic Surge Demonstration Project

This project will simulate the release and dissemination of infectious contagion in a recently vacated hospital. The study will disperse inert surrogates from an index "patient" to other areas of the hospital via the heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) system, elevators and other airborne transport mechanisms. Researchers then will observe tracer gas and aerosol dissemination within the test spaces, adjoining spaces, corridors, floors above and below the test spaces, and elevator access areas as a function of particle size, concentration and travel distance in relation to time.

Activities representing the movement of health care workers, operations staff and visitors will also be simulated (for instance, by opening and closing of doors, movement of elevators, and other means). In addition, ventilation air supplied to individual room fan coil units on one floor will be reduced while holding exhaust constant, creating negative air pressure in all general patient rooms with respect to patient corridors to simulate temporary isolation capacity.