(NewsUSA) - The recent Ebola outbreak in the U.S. has, if nothing else, highlighted how ill-equipped some U.S. hospitals are in their readiness to battle an infectious disease outbreak.
While the risk of contracting the Ebola virus is low, there is a considerably higher risk for patients to catch other deadly superbugs that are prevalent in hospitals right now, such as Clostridium difficile, MRSA and VRE.
Underscoring this point is that, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 99,000 people die every year from an infection they get during their hospital stay, and one in 20 pick up infections that they didn't have when they arrived. This equates to as much as $30 billion a year in medical costs.
"Eliminating pathogens from patient rooms is the quickest and easiest way to lower the risk of additional infections," said Mark Stibich, Ph.D., co-founder and chief scientific officer of Xenex, a San Antonio-based company that has created a robot that emits xenon ultraviolet (UV) light to destroy potentially fatal bacteria and viruses.
Kelly Mather, CEO of Sonoma Valley Hospital, agrees.
"This is an example of our commitment to patient safety," said Mather. "We add another layer of protection for our patients with this UV disinfection technology, which has been shown to be 20 times more effective than manual cleaning with chemicals." Earlier this year, the hospital was named one of the 15 safest hospitals in the U.S. by Consumer Reports.
If you will be going to the hospital, here are three tips to give you the best chance at avoiding infection:
1. Do your research. Hospital infection rates are now posted online at www.hospitalcompare.hhs.gov. Check out the hospital where you plan to be treated to ensure that its infection rate is at or below national averages. If it isn't, tell your doctor that you want to go somewhere else.
2. Ask questions. Question the hospital's disinfection protocol. Are they aware of or using new technologies to disinfect their rooms to get the superbugs out? Hospitals using full-spectrum UV light "germ-zapping robots" are seeing dramatic reductions in their infection rates.
3. Wash your hands. It sounds simple, but request that everyone (including your doctor) wash their hands before touching you. Germs reside on high-touch surfaces like door handles and bedrails and can be easily transmitted from healthcare workers to you.
For more information, visit www.xenex.com.