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Infectious disease containment unit

David Bishop, Royal Free Hospital, London

Download this image from Wellcome Collection.

Inside the UK’s only high-level isolation unit, at the Royal Free Hospital in London. A specially designed see-through tent is set up around the bed of a patient requiring treatment for a dangerous infectious disease such as viral haemorrhagic fever or Ebola. All air leaving the unit is cleaned, so the patient can be safely treated without putting other patients or staff at risk.

This photograph was taken the day before William Pooley was admitted to the Royal Free in August 2014, after contracting Ebola in Sierra Leone. William worked as a nurse when the disease outbreak was at a critical stage and returned to Sierra Leone after making a full recovery. The high-level isolation unit is always on standby, ready to admit a patient at short notice.

Imaging technique: photography

Visually recording a restricted healthcare environment such as this offers an inside view into an area not usually accessible to many people.

Location where image was created

London, UK

Why did the judges choose this image?

“Infectious disease units are places we hope never to visit and we are fortunate to have those who perform there on our behalf. In the image the protective plastic gowns in the room hang limp in anticipation; at once benign and menacing, they appear like ghostly apparitions poised to welcome the unfortunate victim. One imagines entering the space, the shushing of plastic rubbing against plastic and the breathing of the ventilation systems heightening the hermetic claustrophobic scene.”

Rob Kesseler, visual artist, Professor at Central Saint Martins and Chair in Arts, Design & Science at the University of the Arts London

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