U.S. Military Robots To Join Fight Against Ebola

Asher Bayot

Despite massive efforts from countless countries to contain the deadly Ebola virus in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea, the outbreak continues to claim lives at a faster rate than ever. The WHO has estimated around 15,000 current cases, although the organization admits the numbers could be much higher due to the fact that many cases of Ebola in West Africa go unreported or unseen.

The battle against Ebola doesn't end in West Africa. With the recent reported cases inside the United States, a local battle seems to be rapidly growing inside the borders. Thankfully, technological innovations have made the country's fight much easier, making American hospitals more prepared for possible onslaught of the disease. This week, the U.S. military has announced proposals to use military robots in the nation's war against Ebola.

According to Medical Xpress, the four-wheeled robot resembles a taller, skinnier R2D2, and has the capability to disinfect a whole room in mere minutes using ultraviolet technology. The robots have already been tested in the United States, and are currently employed in at least 250 hospitals across the country.

The robots use a non-toxic gas called xenon to produce ultraviolet rays that can destroy any type of germs faster and more efficiently than conventional human cleaning methods.

Alton Dunham, spokesman for the Langley Air Force Base who announced the acquisition of one of the robots, says the germ-killing machines are part of the military's strategy against Ebola.

"The robot is currently part of our Ebola mitigation strategy, but will be used across the hospital to combat a variety of other pathogens known to cause hospital acquired infections."

Experts say the use of robots can greatly help the fight against Ebola, both inside the United States and at the epicenter of the battle in West Africa. However, a number of factors must be considered before deploying these robots to areas of interest. Variables such as local cultures and the applicability of the robot's functions within the already existing team of medical workers would have to be reviewed before proper deployment takes place.

The U.S. military hasn't announced plans to send these robots overseas, although researchers are currently looking into the possibility of deploying similar robots to fight Ebola in gravely afflicted areas.

According to a recent report by the Inquisitr, the Chinese government has sent 160 health professionals to man a state-of-the-art, $41 million Ebola clinic in Liberia. It will be the first clinic in West Africa to be completely staffed by Chinese personnel.

[Image from US Army Africa/Flickr]