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American Forces Press Service

Transcom Develops System to Transport Ebola Patients

By Jim Garamone
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, Dec. 4, 2014 – U.S. Transportation Command has developed a module-system capability to evacuate patients with infectious diseases such as Ebola or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, Transcom's commander, Air Force Gen. Paul J. Selva, said here today.

Selva told the Defense Writers' Group the command did not have the capacity to evacuate a person infected with Ebola when the current epidemic started in West Africa.

"We have the capacity to isolate a single person and that capacity was designed exclusively to handle a SARS patient," the general said.

System Facilitates Patient Movement, Treatment

Over the last 60 days, the command put a requirement on the street for a transportation/isolation module system. That system would load aboard a C-17 or a C-130. The module would isolate the patient, filter the air that moves through the compartment, and would allow access to treat the patient that has a communicable disease that is airborne, or, in the case of Ebola, fluid-borne.

"It accommodates the Ebola issue, but it also accommodates airborne contagions," he said.

The command went from an idea for the module on the first week in October to a design the first week in November and started testing the module in aircraft yesterday, Selva said. The system will move two patients per module, he said, and four modules fit in a C-17. One module will fit in a C-130 aircraft.

Module Available Soon

"It's the only capability of its kind other than the small-scale single evacuation capability that's available on commercial carriers," Selva said. "This provides us the military capacity to handle casualties that might be infected … with communicable diseases."

The module will be available in the next few weeks, the general said.

The command has funded for 12 modules, he said. Transcom officials, he added, worked with the Defense Threat Reduction Agency and the Department of Health and Human Services to develop the system.

"Our approach was if we are going to put military members in harm's way, the capacity to move a single patient at a time was insufficient to the mission we were asking our team to do," Selva said. "We put an urgent operational needs statement together and challenged industry and the defense engineering community to come up with an operational solution for it. And in 60 days, they've delivered a solution that looks like it will work."

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