Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust
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The high-level isolation unit (HLIU)

The high-level isolation unit (HLIU)
The Royal Free Hospital provides the UK specialist centre for the management of patients with hazardous infections. Hazardous infections include viral haemorrhagic fevers such as Lassa fever, Ebola and Marburg fevers and Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever. The unit is maintained and run by infectious disease specialists.

The unit is located in a purpose-designed ward area that is sealed and separated from other public and ward areas, and has its own filtered air supply and outlets. It has two special isolation beds. There is a specialist laboratory within the unit that provides expert pathology services to support the care of patients. Dedicated disposal services for clinical waste and for decontamination of equipment ensure that nothing leaves the unit before it has been made safe.

The unit is activated only when a patient requiring HLIU care is identified. The infectious diseases and laboratory staff undergo regular training and facilities in the unit are tested weekly to ensure the service can be fully operational within hours of notification about a patient.

No hazardous viruses are cultured at the Royal Free Hospital
HLIU provides only specialist clinical services. No hazardous viruses are cultured or handled at the Royal Free Hospital. The diagnosis of dangerous virus infections is carried out at the Health Protection Agency's specialist reference laboratories.

Hazardous infections requiring HLIU are rare
Since the mid-1970s there have been 12 confirmed cases of Lassa fever, one suspected case of Lassa fever, one case of Ebola and one confirmed case of Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever in the UK, all but two of which have been cared for at the Royal Free HSIDU. There have been five fatalities (including the case of Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever in 2012). There has been no transmission of a viral haemorrhagic fever in the UK.

Contact us
Infectious Diseases Department
Royal Free Hospital

+44 (0)20 7794 0500 ext 36285 (infectious diseases office)
+44 (0)20 7794 0500 (Royal Free switchboard, ask for infectious diseases doctor on call)

page last reviewed: 10 January 2014