The CDC says there have been over 10,500 deaths and more than 25,500 confirmed cases of Ebola, several of which were aid workers trying to prevent the spread of the disease. NY1 Health Reporter Erin Billups takes a look at one invention created by a group of New York students that hopes to better protect those tasked with caring for the sick.
Students at Columbia University are joining the fight against Ebola.
"The CDC released a report that said one of the possible reasons for this massive infection rate could be improper decontamination," says Katherine Jin, a Columbia college student.
So they focused in on the bleach used to disinfect the protective suits worn by health care workers. Right now there are several limitations in the decontamination process.
"One, when you spray, it's transparent, so you really can't see where you've sprayed so it’s really easy to miss a spot. And two, when bleach interacts with a waterproof surface it actually forms droplets and rolls off the surface. So you can't actually fully cover something like a personal protective equipment suit," says Jason Kang, a Columbia student.
Their original idea was to create a suit that changes color when sprayed, but they realized it was too time consuming and costly to make and distribute new suits. So they turned their attention to the bleach itself, adding a blue dye and some other chemicals.
"We got a whole bunch of compounds from the lab - and also we ordered online - to kind of test out whether or not it would make the blue solution stick. We ran through like 10 or so and eventually settled on a couple," says Jin.
"So now it sticks to the suit, now it has increased potency versus the virus," says Kevin Tyan, a Columbia student.
After being sprayed disinfected areas are more visible, ensuring complete decontamination.
It started as a project for the Ebola Design Challenge, sponsored by Columbia's engineering school and the Mailman School of Public Health - an effort to develop low-cost, technology-driven solutions to fight the crisis.
"We do want to see this implemented in the field as soon as possible. Currently we've already had it implemented by the Fire Department of New York," says Kang.
And they say this is just the beginning. The team calls their product Highlight, and has even formed a company around it called Kinnos.
"In the future, I’m really looking forward to possibly deploying in Africa this summer, that's one of our main goals. We're also excited to continue deployment on the U.S. front," says Jin.