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Dr. Max Gomez: Health Experts Look To Technology To Ease Ebola Concerns

NEW YORK(CBSNewYork) -- With concern over Ebola and Enterovirus-68 increasing, health experts are looking for ways to prevent the infection from spreading.

As CBS 2's Dr. Max Gomez explained, one of the best ways to do that involves a germ zapping robot.

While Ebola and Enterovirus are at the top of people's minds these days there are many other deadly infections out there. There is  MRSA, C-Diff, and other antibiotic resistant germs that cause almost 2,000,000 hospital infections and 100,000 deaths a year.

Now, a ray-gun toting robot may be coming to the rescue.

A nurse in Spain contracted Ebola from a patient she cared for. Thomas Eric Duncan lies in critical condition in isolation at a Dallas hospital, but health officials have had trouble finding a company to decontaminate his apartment.

Schools where Enterovirus-68 cases have cropped up are being disinfected, but the job is hard to do thoroughly and workers could be placed at risk.

The solution could be something out of a science fiction movie, a robot that pulses high intensity ultra violet light to kill microscopic invaders. That is how some hospitals are waging war against deadly, drug resistant bacteria and viruses.

"Because these new kinds of bacteria, they are not only antibiotic resistant, but they can teach other bacteria how to be resistant in the same way they are, rendering many of our antibiotics useless," Hospital Administrator, Steve Sullivan said.

Even after a patient has been discharged and their room is cleaned, studies have shown that as much as 50-percent of patient surfaces are still contaminated and could put another patient at risk.

The Xenex robot shoots hi-intensity pulses of ultraviolet-c light to do the job that even cleaning solutions can't.

"When UV hits a bacterial cell wall it does damage to the cell wall and it also fries the DNA of the bacteria or the virus and so it can't reproduce and it dies," Xenex Technical Director, Rachael Sparks explained.

Crews move the Xenex from room to room and in fifteen minutes the robot blasts away germs in high touch, high risk areas like bed tables, hand rails, and faucets, but the robot can hit germs virtually anywhere.

"Nooks and crannies are its specialties, wherever light can go, wherever the light can hit, it's going to disinfect," Sparks said.

More than 250 hospitals across the country are already using the $82,000 robot, including Westchester Medical Center, where it reduced hospital acquired infections by almost a quarter.

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