By Alex DeMetrick

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — As Africa endures its worst Ebola outbreak, local innovators are doing their best to fight back. As Alex Demetrick reports, that includes a team from Johns Hopkins, focused on protecting health care workers on the front lines.

It’s protection from the Ebola virus, but it isn’t easy to work in or take off when exposed suits put health care workers at enhanced risk. But, this prototype might increase that protection.

Built from a weekend of brainstorming at Johns Hopkins Center for Bioengineering Innovation and Design, it meets critical goals.

“Like how fast you can take off the garb. That’s really important. Can you take it off safely? Can you reduce the number of steps involved and can you keep it cool,” Dr. Youseph Yazdi with JHU said.

Cool is important in an African climate.

“As soon as they get into it, they want to get out,” Dr. Harikrishna Tandri with JHU said. “Usually about 30 or 45 minutes, they’re soaked and drenched in their own sweat.”

So this large device used to cool cardiac patients is being adapted to a smaller portable unit that pulls humidity out of the air and pumps dry air inside the suit.

“It’s perfect because what could be cheaper than air,” Dr. Harikrishna said.

As for wriggling out of a suit while touching it as little as possible, the Hopkins suit puts the zipper in back.

“This way you just grab these two tab, tears open like this,” Dr.  Youseph said.

And using sewn in straps, the suit sheds cleanly from the person inside with far less touching and exposure.

The motivation for turning out better protection so quickly is obvious.

“We’re sending out our best and bravest people to the field to take care of these patients and they deserve to have the best equipment possible,” Dr. Youseph said.

Hopkins suit was selected for further development out of 15-hundred entries from across the country. It could be ready for mass production by spring.

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