Johns Hopkins team improves protective wear for health workers

The Johns Hopkins University's new personal protective suit for health care workers in Ebola outbreaks was recognized this month as one of 10 finalists in the Social Good category of Fast Company's 2015 Innovation by Design Awards.

The suit was developed in response to the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa during which thousands of people died. It has attributes that will keep the patients who wear it far more comfortable than current suits do, and will also decrease the risk of others coming in contact with the virus while protecting against other infectious diseases.

Fast Company officials noted the suit's design did a "better job than current garments at keeping health care workers from coming in contact with Ebola patients' contagious body fluids."

"It includes a clear visor incorporated into the suit and air vents in the hood for keeping cool in hot climates," Fast Company officials said, "and, most ingeniously, a single rear zipper that easily causes the suit to peel away without the contaminated exterior ever touching the wearer's skin."

More than 1,500 entries were received in 13 categories for this year's Innovation by Design showcase, information on Fast Company's website said.

The Johns Hopkins project was helmed by the school's Center for Bioengineering Innovation Design (CBID) and Jhpiego, the university's global health nonprofit.

"Our (personal protective equipment) redesign happened because of the moving appeal issued last fall by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to the wider design community to address the risks and hardship faced by Ebola caregivers," Youseph Yazdi, executive director of CBID, said. "When we heard the USAID challenge, we met with our partners in global health innovation, Jhpiego, to rapidly organize a three-day Emergency Ebola Design Challenge to bring all of Johns Hopkins people into the effort."

The challenge was attended by more than 60 faculty, staff and students from the university and contributors from the community.

"The event produced over 100 new concepts, and the best were selected for further development by a Johns Hopkins CBID-Jhpiego team," Yazdi said. "The team has made many refinements to the design over the past few months."

Jhpiego president and chief executive officer Leslie Mancuso said the company was "incredibly proud" of the suit.

The project was also backed by Maryland's Department of Business and Economic Development.

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John Hopkins University U.S. Agency for International Development

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