Monday, October 27, 2014

Suppliers on front line fight against Ebola

One thing is certain, the two men in the Zip-Chem Products stand at this year’s Aircraft Interiors Expo Americas in Seattle were correct when they talked about the Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever Discussion Message released by Boeing in mid-September: it’s not something you want to read just before lunch.

It lays out in stark detail extraordinary steps that have to be taken should an airline suspect an outbreak on one of its aircraft. From the treatment of possible infected material, to the clothing on the cleaning crews, it is clear that the industry has developed an extensive protocol that was well in place before the outbreak, which, as of Friday, has another infected person in the United States. 

Jason Smith (left) R&D Manger Technical Support
 and Chuck Pottier, President of Zip-Chem with the
company's Calla 1452 disinfectant for non porous
A Multi-Operator Message was sent out by Boeing to all operators of the company’s aircraft September 17 as part of the response to the outbreak in Dallas and interest by airlines on how to deal Ebola. Effective disinfectant products, cabin air filtration and steps needed to replace oxygen masks were all covered in the message. Last August, Boeing and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released an updated guide for dealing with possible infection in textiles.

Chuck Pottier, President of Zip-Chem Products in Morgan Hill, California, notes that contrary to what he has been hearing in broadcast media reports, the outbreak, while serious, did not catch the aviation industry flatfooted. Steps to deal with the possible outbreak of Ebola have been in place for years and recommendations for products that can be used to effectively treat a large portion of the aircraft cabin are well known and commercially available.  Ebola is the latest virus of concern, but commercial aviation took similar measures during the SARS and H1N1 outbreaks as well.

(left to right) Gene DeJackome, General Manager,
Stephanie Cleary,  Marketing Manger and Dan
 Montgomery, Account Manager at Celeste Industries
One of the products recommended by Boeing for non-porous surfaces within the aircraft cabin is Zip-Chem’s Calla 1452. Crews working within the aircraft can apply the chemical; and after 10 minutes either wipe the surface or leave the product. However, the CDC stresses that little can be done with a porous area such as seating, pillows or blankets. All must be removed by specific methods and destroyed.

In another part of the hall, Celeste Industries officials said they had been inundated with telephone calls from airlines wondering the best steps to take to prevent any infection in the airline cabin.

Celeste, based in Easton, Maryland makes a hospital-grade disinfectant product called Sani-Cide that meets CDC recommendations that call for treatment for Ebola with chemicals that are effective against Poliovirus or Rotovirus. Celeste has also helped out the struggle to get a lid on the Ebola outbreak by donating more than 100 cases of antibacterial hand soap.

Health care officials can note again and again that passing on the Ebola strain involves direct, intimate contact with an infected person and is indeed, difficult to catch. However, airlines are on the front line and in the public eye. Any spread from an infected country to other nation will have likely made its way aboard an aircraft in the commercial fleet. However, with products and procedures now in place, airlines have an effective means to make a stand and hold off the spread of the virus.

- Rick Lundstrom

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