A team of researchers at Johns Hopkins University have designed an advanced protective suit for health care workers who treat Ebola patients. The design is one of the first five awardees in a federal funding contest from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) aimed at quickly devising new tools to combat the deadly disease.
The prototype is designed to be an improvement over current garments in keeping health care workers from coming in contact with Ebola patients’ contagious body fluids, both during treatment and while removing a soiled exposure suit. In addition, they say, it will be able to keep the wearer cooler—an important benefit in hot, humid regions such as West Africa.
The protective suit is being developed by a team of medical experts, engineers, students, and other volunteers under the supervision of the university’s Center for Bioengineering Innovation and Design (CBID) and Jhpiego, a nonprofit Johns Hopkins affiliate that focuses on international health programs.
Some of the suit’s enhancements include a large clear visor in the hood, which is integrated into the suit; air vents in the hood; a rear zipper to reduce infection risks while removing the garment; a cocoon-style doffing process that requires far fewer steps than existing garments; and a small battery-powered, dry air source to cool the user by blowing air into the hood. The cooling technology used in the garment was originally developed for cooling patients in cardiac arrest. (See Figure 1)
A group of core of team members, supervised by CBID and Jhpiego, will proceed to fine-tune the prototype protective suit, and hope to get some elements of the design ready for mass production by as early as April.