The U.S. State Department has ordered 160,000 Hazmat suits for Ebola, prompting concerns that the federal government is anticipating the rapid spread of a virus that has already claimed an unprecedented number of lives.
In a press release posted by Market Watch, Lakeland Industries, a manufacturer of industrial protective clothing for first responders, announced that it had signaled its intention “to join the fight against the spread of Ebola” by encouraging other suppliers to meet the huge demand created by the U.S. State Department’s order of 160,000 hazmat suits.
“With the U.S. State Department alone putting out a bid for 160,000 suits, we encourage all protective apparel companies to increase their manufacturing capacity for sealed seam garments so that our industry can do its part in addressing this threat to global health,” states the press release.
The huge bulk order of hazmat suits for Ebola has stoked concerns that the U.S. government expects the virus to continue to ravage countries in west Africa and may also be concerned about an outbreak inside the United States.
Although the State Department has announced that it is planning a “surge” of emergency medical personnel into western Africa, only 1400 federal workers are currently in the region, suggesting that the 160,000 figure is far higher than what would be required merely for sending medical workers abroad.
In a related story, sources from within the Department of Defense have questioned why the Obama administration is implementing a military response to the Ebola epidemic when USAID and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are already involved in relief efforts.
“We don’t need to be taking planners away from the CT [counterterrorism] mission, and that is what is going on,” the Defense Department source told Fox News.
As we reported last week, top German virologist Jonas Schmidt-Chanasit caused consternation when he suggested that the battle against Ebola in Sierra Leone and Liberia was lost and that the virus would eventually kill 5 million people.
Evidence that the virus has mutated has led to fears that Ebola could have gone airborne to at least a limited extent.
In an op-ed for the New York Times, Michael T. Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, notes that, “there has been more human-to-human transmission in the past four months than most likely occurred in the last 500 to 1,000 years.”
Osterholm says the premise that Ebola could mutate to become transmissible through the air is a possibility “that virologists are loath to discuss openly but are definitely considering in private.”