The Ebola outbreak of 2014-2015 was notable for a number of important reasons: it was the largest outbreak in history, there were affected Americans (both overseas and domestically), and it was the catalyst for the development of new capabilities that could help transport infected or potentially infected people. One such capability is the Department of Defense’s Transportation Isolation System (TIS) that was featured in the March 15, 2019 issue of Global Biodefense.
Another critical solution was the U.S. Coast Guard-developed Portable Isolation Unit (PIU), manufactured by ISOVAC Products and formerly known as the Operational Rescue Containment Apparatus (ORCA®). This was specifically designed to be used in situations involving a rotary-wing maritime evacuation and will allow infected (or potentially infected) patients to be transported without risk of contaminating the aircrew or aircraft. Due to this mission, it was designed to be used with stokes litter and NATO litter, among others.
The PIU is an FDA-approved positive-pressure device that utilizes a powered air-purifying respirator to supply air to the patient while filtering the exhaust air through a CBRNE cartridge. As a positive pressure apparatus that can filter inlet and exhaust air the PIU can withstand the mechanical force or rotor wash at hover during the hoist phase or rotary wing casevac/medevac evolutions. This is an important aspect of the design that enables its safe use in a variety or challenging operations and environments. The unit is battery operated and capable of running continuously for 4 hours. The PIU is constructed from Gore’s ChemPak® membrane barrier that is utilized in other CBRNE individual protective items. A window is installed for patient visibility and is supported by two flexible rods to prevent contact with the patient’s head and face. Glove ports present on both sides of the PIU are manufactured with Gore’s UltraBarrier® material and allow for limited patient interaction with rescue personnel. As a single-use item, the PIU contains the infectious agent or hazardous chemical contaminant during transport, which after use, is decontaminated for final disposal.
Read more at Global Biodefense.