Kaiser Permanente Fresno uses 'zapper' to get rid of deadly bacteria

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A Fresno medical center is waging a battle against a deadly bacteria that can develop within any hospital. (KFSN)

A Fresno medical center is waging a battle against a deadly bacteria that can develop within any hospital. It can cause one of the most common, hospital-acquired infections. But technology is helping medical workers zap the bug before it can make patients sick.

This may look like an upright tanning bed, but it's not for beauty. It's a serious germ-killer. It's so powerful that we can't be in the same room with it. Nicknamed the "zapper," the machine emits high-powered UVC energy, much like the sun's rays, to get rid of a dangerous bacteria, to protect patients, their families and hospital staff at all Kaiser Permanente medical centers.

"The elderly, the patients that have other medical illnesses that come in and end up with this infection, it can be deadly," said Physician in Chief Dr. Smita Rouillard.

Rouillard says all staff members at Kaiser are focused on preventing the infection known as C. diff. Triggered by the use of antibiotics, C. diff is one of the most common hospital-acquired infections, and nationwide, contributes to nearly 100,000 hospital deaths each year.

Kaiser's aggressive attack on the bacteria is a multi-step process. First, hospital staff must "foam in and foam out" -- sanitizing hands with antibacterial foam when entering and exiting patient rooms, in addition to stressing hand-washing for all staff and visitors.

"It really is the scrubbing action and doing it for at least 15 seconds, and it really is the best prevention against the spread of disease," said Chief Nursing Officer Karen Strauman.

Rooms also get a good scrubbing, then test strips are used to get a digital reading on how clean it is. For patients at risk for C. diff infection, the "zapper" is brought in to their empty room to kill any remaining bacteria.

Kaiser Permanente also hopes to literally close the curtain on hospital-acquired infections by switching to disposable, chemically-treated room curtains which can also kill the harmful C. diff bacteria.

Kaiser says all these steps are making a lifesaving difference.

"Kaiser Permanente has reduced C. difficile infections by 62 percent; that's 2,855 cases, and we've saved 485 lives," said Senior Vice President Debbie Hemker.

Giving patients and their families some peace of mind, they'll leave the hospital in good health.

Many hospitals such as Kaiser also try to prevent overprescribing antibiotics since overuse of the medicine can lead to the creation of drug-resistant "superbugs."
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