When Covid-19 swept through the Northeast in April, nearly 600 health care workers died of the virus and thousands were infected. New surges in the southern and western United States threaten additional workers – but a retired emergency room physician in Ellicott City has developed a device that helps protect clinicians from the deadly virus while treating high-risk patients.

Called the Z-Box, the device, named after Ellicott City’s Dr. Jay Zwally, could substantially reduce the risk of Covid-19 transmissions to doctors, nurses and health care workers while they intubate infected patients to help them breath.

The Z-Box is a plexiglass box that can be placed on the patient immediately upon arrival in the emergency room or as soon as a patient develops respiratory distress. It contains resealing arm ports that provide access for a physician and a respiratory therapist while completely enclosing the intubation space. The box can be left in place until all procedures are completed and time has passed to allow aerosols in the box to settle out.

“Intubation, administering nebulizer treatments or even using an Ambu bag to inflate a patient’s lungs, can create droplets and aerosols that contaminate entire treatment rooms and a large portion of the emergency room,” said Zwally, who was the attending emergency physician from 1998 to May 2020 at Doctor’s Community Medical Center, in Lanham, Md. “This explosion of the virus as an aerosol puts health care workers at great risk.”

“There is no barrier enclosure on the market that functions as well to protect our frontline medical workers,” Zwally said. “Hospitals continue to have [Personal Protection Equipment] shortages, which result in rationing and reusing unsafe materials, increasing provider’s risk of exposure. Unfortunately, we are going to see a lot of illness and possibly deaths among health care workers.”