Stopping the spread of a contagious disease is a difficult task, especially when that disease is as horrific as Ebola. Even with treatment, the average fatality rate for Ebola virus disease (EVD) is approximately 50%, and its symptoms include “vomiting, diarrhoea, rash, symptoms of impaired kidney and liver function, and in some cases, both internal and external bleeding (e.g. oozing from the gums, blood in the stools)”.
In the developing countries often affected by Ebola, sanitation is one of the biggest hurdles to control disease transmission. Drinking water, medical equipment, bedding, and burial supplies must all be thoroughly disinfected, but modern cleaning chemicals may not be available. In these cases, providing a sustainable method of disinfection can save countless lives.
Chlorine bleach is often used to kill bacteria and viruses, but existing supplies may run out during a disaster. Fortunately, it's possible to produce chlorine using nothing but water, salt, and electricity. Mountain Safety Research (MSR) developed a device called the Community Chlorine Maker which is designed specifically for this task. The portable device can produce 4 liters of chlorine per day from water, table salt, and a motorcycle battery.
Due to its ability to produce a universal disinfectant for water, tools, and medical gear, the company calls it “the most important piece of gear we've ever made”.
During a recent Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, MSR partnered with the international health organization PATH to supply several Community Chlorine Makers to the affected Likati area. Since the introduction of the devices, the outbreak appears to have been effectively suppressed, with the last confirmed cases of Ebola being found on May 17th.
For more information on how chlorine was used in response to the Ebola virus outbreak in the DR Congo, check out the MSR Summit Register blog.