Texas Hospital’s Secret Weapon in Ebola Contamination Training: Further Proof That There’s Nothing Tabasco Sauce Can’t DoPosted: October 24, 2014 | |
Texas Health Workers Use Tabasco to Help Train for Ebola
Doctors and nurses practice dressing and undressing in their protective gear to avoid contamination, but if they feel the tingle of Tabasco on their skin, they know they’ve been contaminated.
As Texas health workers prepare two new biocontainment units to help treat any future Ebola patients the state might have, they’re are using one piece of training equipment from a neighboring state that may surprise you: Tabasco sauce.
“…it gives feedback immediately.”
— Dr. Bruce Meyer, an executive vice president at U.T. Southwestern Medical Center
At the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, where one of the units is being established, the staff has been practicing treating fake patients who have been sprayed at random with the peppery sauce as a stand-in for Ebola virus-laden fluids. Doctors and nurses practice dressing and undressing in their protective gear to avoid contamination, but if they feel the tingle of Tabasco on their skin, they know they’ve been contaminated.
Capsicum frutescens: The hot pepper chemical has also been used in other medical settings, including dermatology and neurology for pain and itch relief.
“In a way, it gives feedback immediately,” said Dr. Bruce Meyer, an executive vice president at the hospital, giving credit to the hospital’s director of infection prevention, Doramarie Arocha, for the idea.
Tabasco sauce is made by Louisiana-based McIlhenny Co. from red peppers called Capsicum frutescens, which are made spicy by the chemical capsaicin. When skin comes in contact with this chemical, the brain’s pain and temperature receptors get activated at the same time, causing that tingly, hot feeling. The hot pepper chemical has also been used in other medical settings, including dermatology and neurology for pain and itch relief.
Nurse Elizabeth Thomas, who works in the hospital’s infection prevention department, said health workers were originally drilling with ketchup mixed with water when Arocha came up with the idea to use Tobasco sauce instead. When workers took off protective gear at the end of a drill, Arocha told everyone to rub their eyes and touch their lips.
“But we didn’t have the burning sensation,” Thomas said. “So that’s how we knew we were doing the right thing.”
In the aftermath of Texas being home to the first two Ebola transmissions on American soil, Gov. Rick Perry this week promised to create two biocontainment units in the state to treat any future Ebola patients that may arise….(read more)