On the heels of a dire warning from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that the Ebola virus could infect as many as 1.4 million people in West Africa by the end of the year, an American start-up company is offering what they say will be another weapon in the battle to contain the disease.
A company called Surfacide has created a device that uses ultra violet energy to sterilize an area, destroy any pathogens and bugs, and may even prevent the virus from spreading. Creators hope to get the device in the hands of Sierra Leone health care workers soon.
While use of ultra violet energy in healthcare isn’t a new concept, what’s different about this system is that the device uses multiple units which work together in a location to disinfect every surface and shadowy nook and cranny of a room, explained Jeff Veenhuis, a Surfacide manufacturer.
The UV rays destroy the genetic material of a virus or bacteria. Triangulation and a computer algorithm get the rays to the specific areas.
This intense disinfection method is necessary, doctors said, because a major reason why Ebola is spreading so rapidly in places like Sierra Leone and Liberia is due to improper cleaning methods in which the virus molecules are left behind in bodily fluids after an infected patient is treated. If those virus molecules aren’t removed, anyone who comes in contact with them might become infected.
“One of the problems with Ebola is that wherever these patients are there's lots of secretions all over the place with blood in them,” Dr. Michael Chusid, an infectious disease expert with Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, told Fox News. “This virus is in high concentrations in the blood, so the environment tends to become contaminated very rapidly and persists for a while,” Chusid said.
Contaminated surfaces in Ebola treatment areas have been proven to be quite problematic in the efforts to contain the disease, putting health care workers at an increased risk for contracting it. Many aid workers have already fallen ill – including four Americans who were treated at biocontainment units at hospitals in Atlanta and Nebraska.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 186 of 348 health care workers in Africa who contracted Ebola have died.
Surfacide, which is currently in use at dozens of U.S. hospitals, is donating at least one system to the government of Sierra Leone in the hopes that it will protect health care workers and help contain the virus.
The Surfacide system has proven to be so effective, the U.S. military is reportedly looking into the technology. However, the system cannot be used to on humans to kill the virus because of the risk UV rays pose with regard to skin cancer.