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A New Weapon in the Fight Against Ebola: Virus-Proof Tablets

Google and Doctors Without Borders have made tracking and treating infectious diseases that much easier.

Photo via Médecins Sans Frontières.

Doctors on the front lines of the ongoing fight against Ebola have a new weapon with which to combat the horrific disease that’s destroyed entire communities across West Africa: Ebola-proof computer tablets.

Fearing contamination of their equipment, doctors treating patients in towns infected with the Ebola virus had previously been forced to record all their research on notepads. They would then walk over to the edge of a quarantine zone, and shout their findings to colleagues a safe distance away. Nothing being left to chance, the paper upon which the notes were originally taken would then be destroyed, along with the pencils used to write everything down. It was, to say the least, not a particularly efficient system.

Now, thanks to a team of dedicated volunteers originating out of London Hackspace, collaborating with Google engineers, physicians working with the Doctors Without Borders international aid group will be given specially-designed Android tablets that can safely be used inside an Ebola hot zone.

Useful, clearly, but not entirely groundbreaking.

What sets these tablets apart is their unique polycarbonate casing: A protective shell that lets the devices soak in chlorine without being damaged. This process safely decontaminates the tablets, rendering them reusable elsewhere, even after having been exposed to the virus. As Wired reports, plans are underway to open-source both the software and hardware specifications of these disease-proof tablets, in order to help other groups use the same technology to fight future outbreaks of disease.

Google and Doctors Without Borders had previously worked together in 2010, exploring use of the tech giant’s global mapping software to help coordinate treatment of a cholera outbreak in Haiti.

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