Southwestern Vermont Medical Center has some new disinfectant technology. The new Sanosil Halo fogger eliminates bacteria on surfaces, fabrics, and
Southwestern Vermont Medical Center has some new disinfectant technology. The new Sanosil Halo fogger eliminates bacteria on surfaces, fabrics, and hard-to-reach areas of patient rooms. (Holly Pelczynski)

BENNINGTON -- Patients picking up infections during their stays is an old problem for hospitals, and to combat it the local medical center has a new piece of technology that uses fog to kill bacteria.

For the past year and a half Southwestern Vermont Medical Center had made use of two "Sanosil Halo Foggers." About the size of a garbage can, the devices are put into a room after it has been thoroughly cleaned the old fashioned way, then turned on once the room is sealed up and fills with a special antiseptic mist made of hydrogen peroxide and colloidal silver. The treatment leaves no residue or odor and the chemicals turn to water and oxygen by the end of the process. All bacteria in the room, however, are left dead.

Wilma Salkin, infection prevention coordinator at SVMC, said the devices are not used every time a room needs to be turned over, but are reserved for rooms where a patient had a particularly infectious type of bacteria, or one that does not go away easily.

She said each machine costs about $5,000 and it costs $4 to treat a room. The hospital bought two 18 months ago, then a third unit for the Centers for Living and Rehabilitation, which is under Southwestern Vermont Health Care, SVMC's parent company. The hospital had considered purchasing a device that uses ultraviolet light, but the fog gets into places light does not.

Salkin said the hospital's rates of infection were already low, and there appears to have been a dip since the foggers were put into use, but it is difficult to say for certain.

"Tests run by the (Center for Disease Control) couldn't detect bacteria in the rooms after using the Halo fogger," said Salkin. "That makes it a very useful tool especially in cleaning rooms that may have organisms that are very hard to treat, such as clostridium difficile, or C. diff."

C. diff can cause diarrhea in patients with weakened immune systems. The fogger also kills bacteria resistant to antibiotics. Salkin said once a room is cleaned normally it takes about an hour to seal it and run the fogger. The machines can fog a room of just about any size depending on how long they are left to run.

Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at kwhitcomb@benningtonbanner.com or follow him on Twitter @KWhitcombjr.