Tags: Ebola | Pentagon | planes | isolation

Pentagon Readying Ebola Isolation Chambers for Transport Planes

Thursday, 04 December 2014 04:36 PM

The U.S. military plans to equip some of its transport aircraft with new isolation chambers to safely carry as many as 12 people infected with the Ebola virus.

“That is a new capability that will be available in the next couple of weeks,” Air Force General Paul Selva, head of the Transportation Command, said today. The prototype was made by Production Products Manufacturing & Sales Co., a closely held St. Louis-based company that manufactures safety and protective apparel and shelters.

The U.S. military has deployed 2,900 personnel to Western Africa to set up communications, provide logistics capabilities and build treatment centers and hospitals. Program documents don’t specify whether the system is intended only for the transport of U.S. military personnel or will be available for infected civilians.

More than 17,000 people have been infected with Ebola, which has killed 6,070 as of Nov. 30, primarily in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, the World Health Organization said yesterday in a report.

The Transportation Command worked with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Defense Threat Reduction Agency to craft requirements and execute the contract, Selva said. Four of the ‘‘transport isolation systems’’ can be carried on a C-17 made by Boeing Co. and one on a C-130 from Lockheed Martin Corp., Selva said. As many as eight patients on stretchers or 12 who are able to walk can be transported on the larger aircraft.

Rapid Response

“We went from idea and requirement” the first week of October “to a design the first week of November to flight-testing of an isolation system” this week, Selva said at a breakfast meeting with defense reporters in Washington. “In 60 days they have delivered a solution that looks like its going to work.”

The Defense Threat Reduction Agency awarded the $2.4 million contract without competition, citing the urgency of the request and the company’s experience developing and delivering the containment system used by Phoenix Air, a medical charter company, to evacuate Ebola patients from West Africa to the U.S.

Production Products “independently developed a design concept” that expanded the Phoenix Air system “to enable the movement of more patients on military cargo aircraft,’’ the agency said.

Finding Hot Spots

Army General David Rodriguez, the head of U.S. Africa Command, told reporters yesterday that 2,900 troops will be the peak of what was once projected to be at least 4,000 personnel as the virus’s spread has slowed in Liberia, where U.S. efforts have been focused.

“The major efforts will end in Liberia in December and January,” he said. The U.S. and African allies are still likely to be faced with challenges “to find and understand where there’s a hot spot and then move resources there quickly.”

The new transport isolation system, if proven in flight tests, will be integral to handling such medical emergencies.

Selva said the only existing aviation capability is an isolation chamber designed to handle one patient infected with severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS.

“This is the only capability of its kind that we know about,” Selva said of the new system. Allies who also fly the C-17 and C-130 have expressed interest as well, he said.

The system allows the Air Force “to isolate a patient, filter the air that moves through the compartment” and “treat them for a communicable disease that’s airborne or blood-borne,” Selva said.

‘Water-Tight, Filtered’

The module system allows caretakers to put on protective equipment, move through a clean space, remove gear and re-enter the airplane, he said.

A Pentagon fact sheet describes the system as “a water-tight, filtered air structure supported by a metal frame that is attached to a pallet and then rolled onto the aircraft.”

The system has blowers to pull exhaust air through filters “which keeps the isolation unit at a lower pressure than surrounding air to contain any airborne particles,” it said.

A spokesman for Production Products didn’t immediately return a call and e-mail seeking comment.

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The U.S. military plans to equip some of its transport aircraft with new isolation chambers to safely carry as many as 12 people infected with the Ebola virus."That is a new capability that will be available in the next couple of weeks," Air Force General Paul Selva, head...
Ebola, Pentagon, planes, isolation
Thursday, 04 December 2014 04:36 PM
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