As the ongoing Ebola epidemic rages in West Africa, it's becoming increasingly obvious that the protective suits worn by healthcare workers are extremely inadequate. To address this, researchers as Johns Hopkins have designed a new suit that should dramatically reduce infection risk.
The prototype is specially designed to keep healthcare workers from coming into contact with Ebola patients' contagious body fluids, both during the treatment and, perhaps most critically, when the garment is being taken off. In fact, the biggest risk in current Ebola protection is the gear removal process.
The new-and-improved suit is also cooler, which counts for a lot in the hot and humid climate of West Africa.
Other enhancements include a large clear visor in the hood (which is integrated into the suit), a small battery-powered, dry air source to cool the healthcare worker by blowing air directly into the hood, air vents in the hood, a rear zipper (which will reduce contamination risk during disrobing), and a cocoon-style doffing process that requires fewer steps than existing garments.
Indeed, the doffing process is far simpler — and considerably safer — than the CDC's current protocol.
The suit is currently being developed by a team of experts under the supervision of Johns Hopkins University's Center for Bioengineering Innovation and Design (CBID) and Jhpiego, a nonprofit Johns Hopkins partner.
The suit is the first of five awardees in a federal funding contest designed to facilitate the development of new tools aimed at curbing the epidemic.
Image: Johns Hopkins/Jhpiego