• Paula Austin, a Sandia systems engineer within International Biological and Chemical Threat Reduction group, stands outside an Ebola treatment unit in Sierra Leone. (Image courtesy Sandia National Laboratories)
     Paula Austin, a Sandia systems engineer within International Biological and Chemical Threat Reduction group, stands outside an Ebola treatment unit in Sierra Leone. (Image courtesy Sandia National Laboratories)

Sandia Honored for Lifesaving Efforts During Ebola Outbreak

April 20, 2017
By Julianne Simpson
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Nearly 60 employees of Sandia National Laboratories have been recognized by the Department of Energy (DOE) for their work during the 2014 Ebola epidemic. Dmitri Kusnezov, chief scientist and senior adviser to the secretary of energy, visited Sandia earlier this month to honor the lifesaving efforts of the Sandians and the work of the Technology Convergence Working Group.

The working group was established in 2015 to provide technical insight and assess the nation’s emerging biological technologies. It is made up of representatives from DOE headquarters and Sandia, Lawrence Livermore and Los Alamos national laboratories.

A critical part of controlling the Ebola outbreak was reducing the amount of time Liberians who suspected they had the disease spent waiting in large, open waiting rooms called Ebola treatment units. Sandia modeled and analyzed the country’s blood sample transport system from the treatment units to diagnostic labs and made recommendations to improve turnaround time. Sandia’s solution, which included improved diagnostic lab locations and faster options for transporting blood samples, minimized the amount of time that people were together in these open treatment units so that somebody with a less serious illness wasn’t infected.

Though it’s difficult to say exactly how Sandia’s sample transport system affected wait times in the treatment units since so many organizations were involved in the response, there’s anecdotal evidence that the project reduced the travel time from two days to a same-day or overnight diagnosis.

The project was sponsored by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency and United States Command Center for Combating Weapons of Mass Destruction.

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