Ebola: We Should Design Better Protective Clothing For Health Care Workers It is incredible that doctors and nurses have to get in and out of cumbersome "space suits"

WASHINGTON – Here we go. In America we are in the middle of a media-induced “Ebola scare”. Indeed, we have discovered that some Ebola virus carriers may come to the United States. Going forward we shall screen passengers from Africa upon arrival. But no system is perfect. Some infected visitors will slip through.

Many errors

And, sadly, the “Dallas Hospital Story” indicates that the safety systems are not fully in place. Mandated protocols have not been properly followed. The sick man who arrived at the emergency room with a fever was sent home by hospital staff who (amazing but true) failed to notice that he had just travelled from Liberia, the epicenter of the Ebola pandemic.

After a few days he was readmitted to the same hospital with full-blown Ebola symptoms. At that point he was really sick, and after a while he died. And now it appears that a nurse who cared for him somehow got infected.

Are we at risk?

This is bad. Really bad. But it is not tragic. It is a real exaggeration to state that on the basis of these (quite frankly major) blunders we have to conclude that the entire US population is now fully exposed to thousands of Ebola carriers because our health facilities are completely unprepared to deal with this deadly virus.

Primitive protective clothing

That said, I am really surprised to observe that US and all other health care workers around the world have to use outdated, in fact almost primitive, protective clothing in order to work safely with infected patients.

Getting into these “space suits” and then out of them is extremely cumbersome and complicated. And it seems that even minimal carelessness may be fatal. Indeed, just touching with unprotected hands the infected surface of the “space suit”, as the health care worker is getting out of it, may lead to contamination.

Can we design something better?

Well, I am really surprised that our celebrated Yankee ingenuity did not manage to invent and mass produce a different type of safe and “user-friendly” protective clothing.

The idea that each health worker, after long hours of probably tense work with sick patients in Liberia or anywhere else, has to go through an exhausting and complicated protocol in order to disrobe seems a real recipe for inviting potential infections among care givers.

Mistakes are unavoidable

Sure enough, there are specific rules that dictate all the steps to be meticulously followed for dressing and undressing. But no human being is so perfect, 100% of the times. Add fatigue and probably lack of sleep to the mix and sure enough someone else will make a mistake and get infected by his/her own protective clothing.

Designing and producing better protective gear, that can be easily cleaned/decontaminated without endangering the health worker wearing it may not be easy. But it is probably easier and a lot cheaper than finding a cure or a vaccine for Ebola.

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