Health Check: Battling hospital germs

It's been four days and counting since Harold Luckett was admitted to Ingalls Memorial Hospital near Chicago, already aware that getting healthy means keeping things clean.

"If you're not cautious, you can get extremely sick," Luckett said

Hospital-acquired infections can be anything from flu to tuberculosis to MRSA, which can cause deadly infections. The spore C. difficile can lead to a life-threatening inflammation of the colon.

"It's estimated that about 100,000 people actually die every year in U.S. hospitals," said Dr. Ben Zachary, an infectious disease specialist.

Zachary works to keep patients healthy after they're admitted to a hospital.

"It's estimated to cost billions of dollars to health care. So, prevention is really the key," Zachary said.

The newest technology in disinfection uses light. What looks like a standing tanning bed is a sterilizing device. It emits ultraviolet rays into all corners of the room, attacking the micro-organisms at a genetic level, killing them.

"It seems to work against a number of things which are potentially problematic in the hospital setting," Zachary said.

Technicians roll in the device and set up the light-directing sensors after a thorough cleaning by hand. It's an added infection control measure, which officials here believe has worked.

"This new technology at this point, experimentally, has shown to be highly effective," Zachary said.

If future studies bear out these early findings, hospitals may have found an entirely new way to fight the battle against infections.