Custom Ebola hoods prepared in-house


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Faculty and staff at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics are now armed with homebrewed head protection in case of an Ebola outbreak.

Don Jaggers, the UIHC director of material services, said Ebola is still a brand-new disease in terms of contact with it in the United States. 

Consequently, there is a shortage of specialized equipment from the vendors the UIHC would normally go to.

“If we could have gotten everything from suppliers, we would have bought it off the shelf,” he said.

Even if the supplies were more readily available, Michael Edmond, UIHC chief quality officer, isn’t sure they are the best tools for the job.

“Current products on the market are difficult to remove, which increases the risk that the health-care worker can contaminate his/herself during the removal process,” he said.

With this concern in mind, a group of nurses, doctors, and other health-care professionals approached Joanna Eaton, UIHC storekeeper II in material services, to see if she could help them design a solution.

“They gave me an idea of what they wanted and some other designs from other institutions,” she said.

Eaton then entered into a comprehensive process of prototype creation for a new and improved piece of protective headgear.

She said the greatest difficulty in designing the hood was figuring out the best way of safely removing the hood with minimal contact from health-care workers who might be infected. 

Each prototype was taken to a conference of relevant hospital staff for a critique of the design. 

Jaggers said trial and error was a large part of the design process.  Nursing staff helped with the design by wearing prototypes and assessing the practical strengths and weaknesses of each model.
Eaton was also careful to keep up with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s continually changing recommendations for the safe handling of the Ebola patients.

By the end of the design stage, Eaton had created eight prototypes.

The final product is a closed hood that leaves an opening for the eyes and mouth, which are protected by their own set of safety equipment.

It is made of impervious material, which resists contagion.  A binder underneath the hood, which protects the weaker material, reinforces the hood’s solitary stitch.

With no means of mass-producing the protection, Eaton and her coworkers began to sew the hoods by hand. Now the hospital is equipped with more than 600 pieces of the protective equipment.

Eaton estimates each hood costs approximately $20 to make.

She said she was told the design is garnering interest from other parties.

The UIHC is seeking a patent for the hood so it can potentially distribute the protective gear without worrying about liability.    

“We are very proud of the work they did, it’s a very positive thing,” Jaggers said.

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