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Ebola drives demand for protective gear

Since the first US Ebola diagnosis in Dallas, Texas last month, demand for hazardous materials suits and face masks has surged.

Companies that manufacture and sell such equipment range from well-established medical supply manufacturers to little-known businesses that produce Hazmat suits used in West Africa and now, US hospitals.

According to company executives interviewed by Reuters, much of the demand has come from governmental and international agencies since the outbreak began in March.

After Liberian national Thomas Eric Duncan was diagnosed with Ebola in Dallas and later died, US hospitals rapidly increased orders for protective equipment.

The World Health Organisation says that three million protective suits will be needed to control the Ebola outbreak worldwide.

The virus has killed more than 4,400 people so far, nearly all in West African countries.

Without additional intervention or changes in community behaviour, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates there could be up to 1.4 million Ebola cases in West Africa by January next year.

DuPont, a producer of protective suits being used in both West Africa and the US, said it has more than tripled its production since the start of the outbreak in March.

Kimberly-Clark, which makes protective disposable medical equipment for healthcare workers, said it has seen a 20 to 30 per cent rise in demand compared with the same time period last year.