Device manufacturers restrict service amid Ebola fears

Lab equipment manufacturers are increasingly wary of their products being used to test Ebola patients, according to USA Today.

Several diagnostic device manufacturers have told hospital laboratories they will limit support, service and warranties for devices used to test Ebola patients' blood and organ functions, according to the article, while others refuse to have their technicians perform maintenance for the equipment.

Healthcare leaders question the rationality of this reaction, citing Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance that indicates devices can be disinfected and reused without risk of infection, and noting that they have reused the same equipment for infectious illnesses such as HIV and hepatitis without spreading them.

"If this unfounded behavior continues, it could significantly impact the way hospitals care for these people," Steven Hinrichs, chair of pathology and microbiology at the University of Nebraska, told USA Today. "These are good machines, we wanted to use them, but some (manufacturers) are saying you have to incinerate them if you do, so we had to find an alternative."

Meanwhile, the four top commercial diagnostic laboratories in the U.S.--Quest Diagnostics, ARUP Laboratories, Mayo Medical Laboratories and LabCorp--have announced they will not accept Ebola patients' blood or tissue samples. These restrictions will likely have little immediate fallout, as the CDC and state public health labs have been handling all tests for the virus, with any follow-up work conducted by the hospitals treating the patients.

Other manufacturers have announced similar restrictions. For example, Sysmex, which manufactures a hematology analyzer, announced it will not send its technicians to service equipment in isolation wards used for Ebola patients. Sysmex's analyzer is used at Atlanta's Emory University (which successfully treated aid workers who contracted the virus in West Africa). In a statement to USA Today, Sysmex explained it is concerned about the potential disruption of sidelining or quarantining employees suspected of having contracted the virus.

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