A device originally designed to reduce the spread of infection in hospitals could be applied to the cruise industry to prevent cases of norovirus.
Recent reports of norovirus outbreaks have made potential travelers wary of cruising, particularly to the Caribbean where the two cruises with the latest outbreaks (within the same week) were headed. Reports show that more than 160 passengers fell ill with norovirus on Princess Cruises’ Caribbean Princess. This came right on the heels of the worst ever reported incidence of the virus on a cruise ship a few days before, as 626 crew and passengers contracted the virus on Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Seas.
UV Angel, an intelligent, automatic, antivirus device created to disinfect computer surfaces in healthcare settings, could potentially provide a solution to decrease the number of outbreaks each year.
Putting the Numbers in Perspective
Before we continue, it’s important to take a minute to look at some numbers. Yes, outbreaks of infectious disease are a problem on cruise ships and there are some incredible ways that technology could be used to limit the number of cases each year. However, they aren't as frequent as you'd think.
In 2010, the CDC reports that the North American cruise industry included 205 ships that carried 15 million passengers (that number is said to rise to 21.7 million this year). There were 14 outbreaks affecting a total of 2080 passengers, or .0001386% of all the passengers that sailed on a cruise that year.
So statistically no, you do not need to be afraid of cruises. But it's not really the number of outbreaks, it's how quickly they can spread. Because cruise ships are a "closed community," the potential for these illnesses to spread quickly is greater than for individuals just going about their daily lives on land. Having so many people in a concentrated space makes it possible for 600 people to become infected in a week, like in the case of the Explorer of the Seas, which is why it's so important that cruise lines explore additional options to help prevent these outbreaks.
UV Angel provides one of those additional steps for cruise lines, hospitals, grocery stores, and any other industry where people easily, and quickly, spread illnesses.
Utilizing UVC to Disinfect
The idea for the UV Angel came from creator Ted Cole’s experience during a routine physical, when he made a connection between the spread of nosocomial (healthcare acquired) infections, most often transferred by healthcare workers’ hands, and how infrequently computer surfaces are disinfected.
Cole envisioned a device using antimicrobial UltraViolet-C to disinfect computer surfaces after software detects that the surface isn’t being used. Other devices have used UVC, but with the goal of disinfecting as quickly as possible. This results in a higher energy UVC that isn’t safe in a real life setting. Instead, Cole created a product that uses the lowest amount of UVC that can still effectively disinfect without any potential for harm.
“It performs in the real world the type of function our white blood cells perform inside our bodies,” says Cole, “automatic, immediate destruction of harmful bacteria as it's introduced into the environment.”
The product will launch at HIMSS conference at the end of February, with the initial intention to market to the healthcare industry, but Cole sees potential to use the technology in other areas. Cruise ships, where thousands of people can be in close quarters for several days, is a logical step.“I personally love the cruise ship experience,” says Cole. “However, I keep reading about serious virus outbreaks on numerous ships. Our device can help in the fight against these contact-based infections like norovirus, but also work against MRSA, eColi, C.Diff, and literally every other kind of bacteria and virus.”
The product can be used on any shared computer or counter surface, check out screens, dish stacks or anywhere people are congregating and spreading bacteria. Self checkouts or POS stations (shown left), where essentially endless people are touching a screen that never is disinfected, are ideal locations for the UV Angel device. And on cruises, where passengers use POS stations to make all their purchases, the technology is a perfect fit.
“No single solution will realistically stop incidences of Norovirus outbreaks on cruise ships,” says Ted, “it's a multi-front, multi-path problem that like a dam with numerous holes, will take numerous solutions to plug.”