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Sanford adds rooms capable of handling Ebola patients

Sanford Health unveiled two new rooms Thursday specially equipped to safely treat patients with highly contagious infections such as the deadly Ebola virus.

Jane Taber, a nursing director at Sanford Health, shows off a room in the Special Care Unit which has such features as a pass through door and telemedicine features at the south Fargo, N.D. location. Carrie Snyder / The Forum
Jane Taber, a nursing director at Sanford Health, shows off a room in the Special Care Unit which has such features as a pass through door and telemedicine features at the south Fargo location. Carrie Snyder / The Forum

FARGO -- Sanford Health unveiled two new rooms Thursday specially equipped to safely treat patients with highly contagious infections such as the deadly Ebola virus.
The hospital inpatient rooms at Sanford’s South University campus are coated with a special paint that reflects ultraviolet light, a potent and efficient disinfectant increasingly used in medical settings.
The special care unit includes remodeled rooms that formerly served as a critical care unit. They were chosen because they are suitable and in an out-of-the-way location in the hospital.
The unit includes two patient rooms, an anteroom for nurses and other caregivers to doff their special garments, a special laboratory and a medical waste disposal room.
The spread of the Ebola virus to two nurses at a Texas hospital who treated victims flown back from Africa prompted hospitals and public health officials to improve control measures for highly contagious and dangerous diseases.
“That was a definite wake-up call and a push for all of us to look at these highly infectious pathogens and ask how to be ready,” said Dr. Paul Carson, Sanford’s director of infection prevention.
Sanford Health in Fargo and Bismarck have been designated in North Dakota as treatment centers for Ebola, which has not turned up in the state.
“Our hospitals have stepped up to try to figure out how to manage this,” Carson said.
People from North Dakota and Minnesota regularly travel to and from west Africa, where the deadly virus caused an epidemic.
A growing litany of highly infectious diseases, including bacteria resistant to antibiotics, could require using the containment rooms, Carlson said.
The rooms were painted with a special paint that was developed by Lumacept, a Grand Forks company. Most paints absorb most ultraviolet light, but the Lumicept coating reflects 70 percent of the rays, making the disinfectant more effective, said Brian Tande, Lumacept’s vice president.
The reflective paint has unlikely roots -- it was adapted from a coating the company developed about eight years ago for dunking duck and goose decoys, said Tande, chairman of the department of chemical engineering at the University of North Dakota.
Because of heightened concerns about dangerous germs that are highly contagious, interest is growing in coatings that reflect ultraviolet light for use in hospital rooms, Tande said.
“It’s a small but emerging market,” he said, estimating that fewer than 10 percent of hospitals use the special paint. It takes about 45 minutes to disinfect a room using ultraviolet light, Tande said.
Besides the special paint, the rooms are equipped with safety measures that include a ventilation system that maintains negative air pressure to contain airborne pathogens.
Grant funding is being sought to defray the cost of the project, about $250,000, Carson said. Sanford is considering adding two more special care unit rooms.

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