CREATED May. 21, 2013
Omaha, NE- There's a growing health risk in hospitals across the country. One in twenty patients picks up infections germs after being admitted.
Superbugs are becoming such a threat, Nebraska Medical Center is taking extreme action to kill germs and protect patients. It looks like a typical light bulb, but the high tech machine zaps germs.
Dr. Mark Rupp heads up the hospital's division of infectious diseases. "This equates to somewhere in the neighborhood of one and a half to two million infections a year," he said. "Maybe an estimated 100,000 deaths, so this is a really big deal."
The machine uses ultra-violet light to kill germs on walls, floors and other surfaces. The light is so bright; humans can't be in the room when it's on. It's operated by remote control. But there are other drawbacks. "They don't take away from the need to actually clean the environment," Dr. Rupp said. "So these methodologies don't work very well if you have dirt, debris, or organic material left behind by the patient or their care."
Nothing can replace good old-fashioned cleaning - elbow grease and bleach. "If you do aggressive, routine cleaning," Dr. Rupp says, "these machines haven't proved to be that beneficial."
Doctors say there's another drawback - time. It can take a couple of hours to clear the room and use multiple doses of radiation. That can disrupt the flow of patients coming in and out. So Nebraska Medical Center targets rooms after a patient is discharged. "We're identifying those rooms where the person has been infected or colonized with particularly resistant or problematic pathogens," Dr. Rupp explained.
Some hospitals are even opting to paint walls with a reflective material, allowing the light to bounce around the room while zapping and frying germs.