Ebola: US government stockpiles hand sanitiser in case of outbreak - but 84 per cent are expired

Audit reveals US government department failed to “adequately conduct a needs assessment”

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The Independent US

The US government has stockpiled thousands of bottles of hand sanitiser in the event of an Ebola outbreak in Washington – except 84 per cent of the stock has expired.

It is just one example found in an audit by the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general John Roth which showed the US had failed to “adequately conduct a needs assessment” resulting in the purchase and stockpiling of products either out of date or useless – such as 16 million surgical masks.

In a damning executive summary of the 50-page document, the report claimed: “DHS did not adequately conduct a needs assessment prior to purchasing pandemic preparedness supplies and then did not effectively manage its stockpile of pandemic personal protective equipment and antiviral medical countermeasures.” The report was released today ahead of a White House hearing by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee tomorrow. The hearing will examine the government’s preparations for an outbreak or attack using pathogens.

The report may not make comfortable reading for government officials: out of 4,982 hand santiser bottles Mr Roth’s study discovered that 4,184 had expired, some up to four years ago.

In addition, the department had stockpiled 16 million surgical masks and approximately 350,000 while coverall suits despite failing to demonstrate a need, “justification or related documentation to support that this quantity and type of protective equipment was necessary for pandemic response.”

In a written response to Bloomberg following the report, the department claimed the inspector general “has not appropriately characterized [sic] a number of issues discussed in the report, resulting in a misrepresentation of the information and evidence that DHS program officials and subject matter experts provided to the auditors.”

The department also claimed that he report had not taken account of their preparations to isolate infection, which included encouraging people to work from home in order to minimise infection.

An inventory revealed many of the items stockpiled by the government had been purchased since 2006.

The release comes as news that New York doctor Craig Spencer has tested positive for Ebola, having returned from Guinea in West Africa.

Although now in isolation in a Manhattan hospital, reports are emerging which claim that Dr Spencer could have used both the underground and taxis since his return to the US on 17 October. Health authorities were scrambling to ascertain who he may have come into contact with.

Ebola has now killed over 3,000 people, mostly in the West African nations of Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Nigeria.