The question of how to fairly distribute scarce doses of experimental Ebola treatments is capturing the world's attention. Yet the fate of the epidemic doesn't rest on getting these expensive and unproven drugs to the afflicted African countries. What medical teams there need most are protective masks, goggles, gloves, gowns and boots.
This gear enables doctors and nurses to care for Ebola patients without risking their own lives by coming in contact with the virus in patients' vomit, blood and feces. The equipment is in such short supply in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone that, for lack of it, medical workers have fallen ill. About 15 percent of Ebola deaths in Liberia are of doctors and nurses, and 10 percent of those in Sierra Leone are hospital workers.
This exacerbates the shortage of care providers to contain the outbreak, and deters additional helpers from joining the effort. Outside organizations, including Doctors Without Borders, the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Defense Department have sent reinforcements, but they, too, are overwhelmed.