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‘Germ Zapper’ Machine Keeps Patients’ Rooms Super Clean

A hospital room with a large glowing light fixture and a radiation warning sign on the door

IRIS the Germ Zapper likes to work alone when disinfecting a patient’s room.

by Tom Cramer, Staff Writer
Thursday, January 2, 2014

Microbes beware: the Department of Veterans Affairs is introducing 21st Century ‘germ zapping’ technology that takes no prisoners when it comes to disinfecting patients’ rooms.

“We’ve invested close to $1 million to buy eight ‘germ zappers,’ said Bruce Brenner, environmental management supervisor at the Wilkes-Barre VA Medical Center in Pennsylvania. “Its official name is Intelligent Room Sterilization, or IRIS. Each machine is about 5-feet-tall and emits high-intensity ultraviolet rays that help disinfect patients’ rooms and treatment areas by killing germs including multidrug-resistant organisms.”

Brenner said the zapper is simply wheeled to the center of a patient’s room and activated from outside the room using a remote control. No one is permitted in the room while the zapper is doing its thing.

“The zapper’s UV light shines on all the surfaces, disinfecting them,” Brenner explained. “It even knows to send higher levels of UV rays to those areas of the room that are farthest away. It’s a smart machine.”

 IRIS takes disinfection to a whole new level. The UV light reaches deep into places where human hands simply can’t get to. 

According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, one in 20 patients’ contract infections during their stay in the hospital. Some of the meaner organisms, called “superbugs,” can be exceedingly difficult to treat.

“Manually scrubbing a patient’s room significantly reduces the number of organisms, and therefore the number of hospital-acquired infections that might occur,” said LeVonn Anderson, chief of Environmental Management at the Wilkes-Barre VA. “But IRIS takes disinfection to a whole new level. The UV light reaches deep into places where human hands simply can’t get to.”

All VA medical centers employ routine manual cleaning procedures to keep a patient’s room as clean and germ-free as possible. But tests have revealed that no amount of manual disinfecting can wipe out everything. Some organisms always manage to hang in there.

“Not so with IRIS,” Anderson said. “After the machine would disinfect a room, we’d take swabs from places like bed frames and other hard-to-reach areas, incubate them overnight and then look to see if any growth had occurred. The results were impressive. IRIS doesn’t play around.”