coronavirus watch

Texas company making low-cost ventilation helmets sees growing demand amid COVID-19 pandemic

The device could help alleviate a worldwide shortage of ventilators. Photo courtesy of Sea-Long

A company based in Waxahachie, Texas, is making a promising ventilation helmet for coronavirus cases that has become in demand around the world.

Sea-Long Medical Systems Inc., which has been manufacturing hyperbaric oxygen hoods since 1985, has a spacesuit-like helmet that could help alleviate the worldwide shortage of ventilators needed by patients suffering from COVID-19.

The device consists of a transparent hood with two tubes extending from its base that can be connected to an oxygen supply. It has great potential because it could be used as a stopgap to free up ventilators for patients who are critically ill.

A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that patients who used them required ventilation 18.2 percent of the time, compared to 61.5 percent who wore oxygen masks. Helmet-wearing patients also had a better survival rate.

According to NBC News, Sea-Long is getting thousands of orders every day from hospitals in America and around the world. Doctors in Italy have found it effective in helping some patients with breathing problems.

And the Sea-Long helmet is only $162, compared to the $25,000 to $50,000 cost of a hospital-grade ventilator.

Virgin Galactic, which has been proactive on the manufacture of ventilation devices, has lent financial assistance including buying equipment, but Sea-Long is still shipping a limited number helmets per order. They've received orders from Canada, Mexico, and Europe.

"'Overwhelmed' doesn't scratch the surface," Sea-Long founder Chris Austin told NBC News.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

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Building Houston

 
 

UH has found a way to instantly zap COVID-10. Andriy Onufriyenko/Getty Images

While the world rushes to find a COVID-19 vaccine, scientists from the University of Houston have found a way to trap and kill the virus — instantly.

The team has designed a "catch and kill" air filter that can nullify the virus responsible for COVID-19. Researchers reported that tests at the Galveston National Laboratory found 99.8 percent of the novel SARS-CoV-2 — which causes COVID-19 — was killed in a single pass through the filter.

Zhifeng Ren, director of the Texas Center for Superconductivity at UH, collaborated with Monzer Hourani, CEO of Medistar, a Houston-based medical real estate development firm, plus other researchers to design the filter, which is described in a paper published in Materials Today Physics.

Researchers were aware the virus can remain in the air for about three hours, which required a filter that could quickly remove it. The added pressure of businesses reopening created an urgency in controlling the spread of the virus in air conditioned spaces, according to UH.

Meanwhile, to scorch the virus — which can't survive above around 158 degrees Fahrenheit — researchers instilled a heated filter. By blasting the temperature to around 392 F, they were able to kill the virus almost instantly.

The filter also killed 99.9 percent of the anthrax spores, according to researchers.

A prototype was built by a local workshop and first tested at Ren's lab for the relationship between voltage/current and temperature; it then went to the Galveston lab to be tested for its ability to kill the virus. Ren says it satisfies the requirements for conventional heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems.

"This filter could be useful in airports and in airplanes, in office buildings, schools and cruise ships to stop the spread of COVID-19," said Ren, MD Anderson Chair Professor of Physics at UH and co-corresponding author for the paper, in a statement. "Its ability to help control the spread of the virus could be very useful for society."

Medistar executives are also proposing a desk-top model, capable of purifying the air in an office worker's immediate surroundings, Ren added.

Developers have called for a phased roll-out of the device, with a priority on "high-priority venues, where essential workers are at elevated risk of exposure — particularly schools, hospitals and health care facilities, as well as public transit environs such as airplanes."

The hope, developers add, is that the filter will protect frontline workers in essential industries and allow nonessential workers to return to public work spaces.

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