Local hospitals turn to UV light methods to optimize supply of protective equipment

Coronavirus

ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) – Local hospitals in Southwest Virginia are implementing new strategies to preserve personal protective equipment (PPE).

As the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases continues to grow in the United States, PPE shortages are currently posing a tremendous challenge to healthcare facilities nationwide.

While many businesses are turning from their normal day-to-day operations to produce PPE for healthcare workers and first responders, researchers are looking into ultraviolet (UV) light to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.

New studies show UV light can have the ability to decontaminate surfaces, and potentially water and air, against the virus.

UV light is known for it’s germ-killing properties and is often used to clean rooms and a variety of equipment within hospitals.

Hospitals including Carilion Clinic are now turning towards UV light treatments to help optimize PPEs.

UV light method used to decontaminate N-95 respirators at Carilion.
Courtesy: Carilion Clinic

Medical professionals are also gathering specialized equipment from within the community.

Several weeks ago, two local anesthesiologist groups- Valley Anesthesia, PC and Anesthesiology Consultants of Virginia, Inc. – reached out to Roanoke County Public Schools regarding their UV light cabinets.

One of 8 UV light cabinets donated to local hospitals by Roanoke County Public Schools.

The equipment was generally used in science classes and labs like chemistry and biology. PPEs like goggles and face shields are carefully placed in the cabinet, and after 5 minutes, harmful germs are sterilized. Since schools across the Commonwealth have closed for the remainder of the school year, they were no longer in use.

After a mutual agreement, the school district donated 8 UV light cabinets to Carilion Clinic and LewisGale Regional Healthcare. The method allows both healthcare facilities to safely prolong the use of PPEs, including N-95 respirators.

Schools officials say they were happy to contribute to a need in the community.

“A lot of people have different ideas about different ways to help and some pan out and some don’t. It’s really gratifying when it does work out,” says Dr. Ken Nicely, Superintendent for Roanoke County Public Schools.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), UV light has proven to be a useful method for disinfection, but it depends on the intensity of the light.

Certain UV wavelengths are dangerous for humans, but UV-C wavelengths are more common for decontamination and the safest for human exposure.

While research studies are ongoing, medical experts say this new method is a step forward to optimizing limited supplies of PPEs.

Other techniques like vaporous hydrogen peroxide and moist heat are also effective in decontaminating protective gear.

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