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South African doctors design virus ‘box’ to prevent infection

JOHANNESBURG (The Southern African Times) – Eyes narrowed in focus behind her face shield, doctor Jana Du Plessis kept a steady hand as she inserted a tube down the throat of a dummy, working through the lid of a Plexiglas box.

Du Plessis, a doctor at Johannesburg’s Charlotte Maxeke public hospital, practiced moving around a newly designed isolation device to protect health care workers from coronavirus patients.

The “intubox” is the brainchild of four local doctors inspired by a similar “aerosol box” used in Taiwan for sedated and intubated patients.

The South Africans added holes to the original design as well as covers for the openings, creating a protective, transparent but accessible box intended to shield workers from dangerous respiratory droplets.

“This box will create a seal around the patient so that whatever further procedures are needed will happen inside the box,” she explained, maneuvering tubes and drips through circular side flaps.

Doctors across South Africa are bracing for a potential surge in critically ill patients as the number of infections continues to rise.

More than 2,500 cases have been detected, the highest in Africa, including 34 fatalities.

Less than 10 patients have been admitted to intensive care so far.

“At the moment we don’t have a lot of serious cases,” said ICU specialist Abdullah Laher. “But we don’t know what’s going to happen in
the future.”

The predominance of milder COVID-19 infections has provided some time for hospitals to prepare and distribute protective equipment to staff, particularly those working in intensive care units. “Sicker patients are potentially more virulent,” Laher explained. “If they cough or splutter they are likely to exude more virus into the atmosphere.”

The box covers only the top part of the body, from the shoulders upwards.

South African companies have sponsored a first batch of 500 “intuboxes” for public and private facilities in Gauteng, the most populous and worst-hit province
so far.

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