UNMC Conducts Bio-Containment Research

UNMC Conducts Bio-Containment Research
Airmen transport a simulated highly-infectious patient during a training exercise with with UNMC.

OMAHA — The University of Nebraska Medical Center is researching and testing equipment that could one day prevent possible infectious disease outbreaks.

A $1.1 million contract with the Department of Defense allowed UNMC, the National Strategic Research Institute at NU, and Indiana University to conduct the research on biosecurity over the past year. Biosecurity teams evaluated new equipment and used it to practice airlifting highly-contagious patients. The equipment is called a “Transport Isolation System” and it is designed to safely move patients with highly contagious diseases. The System was originally engineered after the Ebola virus outbreak in 2014.

Two of the TIS pods were used for the first time during the training; one had a simulated infected patient, and the other was used to monitor two other simulated patients who were exposed to the infected patient.

“The mission to safely transport highly infectious patients is a complex one, involving not only flexible and robust engineering controls, like the TIS system, but also equally robust training and procedures. Our team works closely with Air Mobility Command to ensure that both aspects of this mission are ready to meet the country’s needs,” Joshua Santarpia, the research director for NSRI, said.

Not only does the training aim to help members of the UNMC, Indiana University, or NSRI learn about bio-containment, it also helps airmen with the Department of Defense train and be ready for possible future outbreaks. Major Heather Cohen, the Air Mobility Command deputy chief of medical modernization, says the exercise allowed the airmen to become familiar with various procedures and protective equipment used in that type of mission.

“We don’t know what the bug of the future might be,” Cohen said. “This is the next step in preparing for as many scenarios as possible.”

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