Ebola outbreak: US government offers $1m for best hazmat suit design as demand surges

Since the first US case of Ebola, shares in hazmat suit manufacturers have soared by 155% but email scams have also surfaced

Zachary Davies Boren@zdboren
Saturday 11 October 2014 15:45
Ebola hazmat suits in Liberia
Ebola hazmat suits in Liberia

The US will award $1 million in funding to whoever can design the best hazmat suit, as the Ebola crisis has driven demand for the protective gear to record highs.

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is calling on the internet to design an anti-contamination suit that will better protect aid workers from catching Ebola.

Part of the initiative “Fighting Ebola: A Grand Challenge for Development,” USAID is hoping to solve hazmat suit hazards such as tropical heat stress from the African climate and the risk disease exposure as the suit is being removed.

USAID has given no indication of existing hazmat suit standards, seemingly hoping to benefit from some outside-the-box thinking.

The eventual design, which is due in two months, should incorporate face cooling shields and enable the suit to be reused. It is likely to be used in the Western African countries where the disease is already widespread.

The government agency also said it was vital that these suits be used by airport staff, TSA staff and for those involved in burials.

Starting today, five US airports will begin screening travellers from West African countries for Ebola using non-contact thermal guns, as well as questioning over health and exposure to infected patients.

The US is asking for hazmat suits designed to withstand Africa's tropical climate

This hazmat suit initiative comes as demand in the US for the anti-contamination gear saw record-breaking growth following the country's first reported Ebola case and death.

On Thursday, a day in which the stock market largely fell, shares in Lakeland Industries, a hazmat suit manufacturer, grew by 50 per cent.

Lakeland has seen its value increase by 160 per cent just this month.

Such is the demand for anti-Ebola equipment, phoney emails are being distributed across the US, according to the Illinois Attorney General.

These emails offer $29 Ebola “surplus personal protection kit” that provide “infection defence for emergency response teams”.

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan said in a statement: “We suspect these emails are the handiwork of scammers seeking to take advantage of people’s understandable fear and anxiety surrounding this international public health risk.”

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