Tech’s Role In Fighting The Ebola Outbreak

Nicole Blake Johnson | FedTech Magazine | October 6, 2014

The government is exploring the use of emerging technologies to improve communications and protective gear for healthcare workers in West Africa.

Technology is poised to play a key role in combating the worst Ebola outbreak the world has seen in the past 40 years.  The U.S. government is eyeing body sensors, ruggedized tablet computers, broadband communications and big data capabilities to aid its Ebola response. A high priority on the list is using innovative technologies to improve the protective gear worn by healthcare workers on the frontlines.

The gear doesn’t weigh much, but it’s suffocating, Armand Sprecher, the medical adviser to Doctors Without Borders for hemorrhagic fevers, told NPR. “If you wear something very fluid-resistant, it's also very air-resistant. It's hotter than hell. You're unable to wear the PPE [personal protective equipment] for more than 30 or 40 minutes in tropical heat.”

This severely limits the time workers can spend treating patients, according to the United States Agency for International Development. That’s why USAID, in partnership with other federal agencies and the Swedish government, recently launched Fighting Ebola: A Grand Challenge for Development. USAID outlined the project’s three goals...