Distributor reports hazmat suit shortage as Ebola spreads

The outbreak of Ebola in the United States is causing a shortage of hazmat suits, one distributor told The Hill Thursday.

Indiana-based DQE, which sells protective apparel to the healthcare community, decided this week to limit protective gear only to emergency responders.

“We have historically been open to anyone who wants to call and buy their own suit,” said DQE President Tony Baumgartner. “In this case, the supply chains for the garments are starting to become strained.”

“There had been no supply issue concerns prior to about two weeks ago,” he added. 

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For a number of products on DQE’s website, it says “Due to significant surges in order volume and resulting supply strains, we are currently fulfilling orders on [personal protective equipment] from qualified healthcare and emergency response providers only."

DQE has sold gear to U.S. hospitals and even sent a shipment to Liberia on Thursday. 

The demand for the protective gear, Baumgartner said, began to pick up once Ebola reached Dallas. Thomas Eric Duncan, who was the first person to be diagnosed in the U.S., died last week. Two healthcare workers who cared for him have also been diagnosed with the deadly disease. 

Last month, New York-based Lakeland Industries Inc., a manufacturer of protective gear, suggested the supply could slow if companies don’t prepare properly.

“We understand the difficulty of getting appropriate products through a procurement system that in times of crisis favors availability over specification, and we hope our added capacity will help alleviate that problem,” CEO Christopher J. Ryan said in a release. 

The U.S. Agency for International Development, meanwhile, has put out bids for 160,000 hazmat suits in its effort to help West African countries affected by Ebola. 

The issue of protective gear has been raised in Dallas, where the apparel reportedly varied for the now infected healthcare workers who cared for Duncan.   

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends healthcare workers wear at least gloves, a gown, eye protection and a facemask. Depending on the patient’s condition, the worker might also need to double their gloves and wear shoe covers and leg coverings.