A hospital in Texas is spraying “patients” with Tabasco sauce to help train medical workers to avoid contact with the Ebola virus.
Staffers at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center have been practicing treatment on fake patients who have been sprayed at random with the spicy hot sauce – which stands in for infected bodily fluids.
The doctors and nurses practice changing into and out of their protective gear to avoid contact with contaminated fluids – but if they feel the telltale tingle of Tabasco sauce, reported ABC News, they haven’t been careful enough.
Tabasco sauce is made by Louisiana’s McIlhenny Co. from Capsicum frutescens peppers, which activate the brain’s pain and temperature sensors at the same time.
Health workers had initially been conducting drills with ketchup mixed with water, but the hospital’s director of infection, Doramarie Arocha, prevention came up with the idea to use hot sauce instead.
“It gives feedback immediately,” said Dr. Bruce Meyer, an executive vice president at the hospital.
Capsaicin, the chemical that makes peppers spicy, has also been used for pain and itch relief in dermatology and neurology.
The training was instituted after a Liberian man infected two nurses who treated him at a Dallas hospital before he died earlier this month.
It’s not clear how the health care workers came into contact with the virus, but some have speculated they may have been contaminated while changing out of their protective clothing.
One of the nurses was declared virus-free Wednesday, and the other had her condition upgraded this week.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry has promised to create two biocontainment units in the state to treat any future Ebola patients.
The U.S. currently has just four biocontainment facilities capable of treating up to 11 patients, and the additional units in Texas would allow for treatment of at least several more patients.