Robots prepared to kill off Ebola at Riverside

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) – Riverside Regional Medical Center in Newport News is using the area’s only germ-zapping robots, harnessing the power of technology to kill off viruses, and potentially Ebola.

“What they provide is an extra measure of safety for both or patients and our staff,” said Sue Moeslein, Infection Prevention Nurse Manager.

At any hospital, an extra layer of protection is welcomed with open arms, but at Riverside the protection doesn’t have any arms at all.

“What we have here are two ultraviolet robots,” Moeslein added. “This is Albert and this is Annie.”

Photos: Ebola-fighting robots

Albert became part of staff last year, and then came Annie a few months ago. The robots are designed to kill germs throughout the hospital.

“It is a daily activity,” Director of Environmental Services Jim Pixler said. “It is seven days a week and 365 days a year. We use it in our operating rooms, we are using it throughout the facility and in all our patient rooms.”

“It is effective against all the organisms we have of concern,” Moeslein said.

That includes MRSA, C. difficile infection and Ebola. The robots, designed by Xenex, have a Xenon gas lamp and emit ultraviolet rays 25,000 times brighter than the sun. The rays essentially blow viruses up.

Though the robots don’t replace cleaning rooms, the hospital staff uses Albert and Annie whenever a patient is discharged.

“As we tracked our reduction in infections, we have actually seen that the more we use the robot, the fewer infections we are getting,” Moeslein said.

The light covers a radius of about 10 feet so it needs to be moved around a room.

A similar robot was in the Texas hospital where the first case of Ebola in the U.S. appeared. Annie and Albert were used a couple weeks ago when a Riverside patient showed Ebola symptoms, but state officials determined it wasn’t Ebola.

Riverside has the only such robots in Hampton Roads. They each have a price tag of $134,000.

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