The 3M Co. and Ecolab Inc. joined the fight against the deadly Ebola virus and are sending millions of dollars worth of medical supplies to aid workers in West Africa, the companies said Wednesday.
Last month, Maplewood-based 3M sent thousands of N95 respirator facemasks at the request of Direct Relief International. Two more shipments of 3M products will make their way to Africa soon, but exactly what is going is not yet known.
Relief agencies Project Hope and Map International are compiling their request list right now, said 3M spokeswoman Donna Fleming Runyon. 3M’s $5.3 billion health care division makes protective facemasks, surgical drapes, hand sanitizers and bandages and other wound wraps.
Next week, St. Paul-based Ecolab is sending more than 10 shipping containers of soaps, hand sanitizers and disinfecting cleansers to Sierra Leone and Liberia. Ecolab’s donations, worth $1.8 million, are coming from plants in Manchester, England, Joliet, Ill., and Huntington, Ind., said spokesman Roman Blahoski.
Ecolab, which makes sanitizers and cleaning chemicals for hotels, restaurants and hospitals all over the world, began coordinating the supplies two weeks ago after receiving a call from Dr. Trish Perl, an infectious disease specialist at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.
“She asked if we could provide some product because a number of their medical professionals were going to be on the ground,” trying to help patients and contain the disease, said Martha Aronson, president of Ecolab’s $600 million global health care business. “The good news is that we have done this before and supported tornado, hurricane, typhoon and other disaster relief efforts around the world.”
With the blessing of CEO Doug Baker, hundreds of Ecolab employees got involved in the project and coordinated production and shipments to the appropriate ports in the U.S. and U.K. Ecolab is working with World Emergency Relief to get the products from the ports to the aid workers and hospitals in Sierra Leone and Liberia.
Ecolab provides disinfectants to roughly 10,000 hospitals around the world and so was happy to help in this effort, Aronson said. Right now, the company is shipping supplies to two of the four Ebola-stricken nations in West Africa.
But that could change.
Company officials will evaluate the progress of the disease and relief efforts in the coming weeks and will send more supplies if necessary, Aronson said. Of the four West African nations battling Ebola, Ecolab has employees in just one, Nigeria. It does not have employees in Sierra Leone, Liberia or Guinea.
For all four countries, the death toll from the Ebola outbreak exceeds 1,000 people. Hospitals and relief agencies are running out of gloves and others medical supplies needed to quarantine patients and protect medical workers. Some medical staff have stopped coming to work for fear of their safety.
Last week, Fridley-based Global Health Ministries airlifted five pallets of protective gloves, facemasks, surgical gowns and other medical gear to hospitals and clinics in Monrovia, Liberia.
Last Saturday, an even larger shipment of supplies was packed by Minnesota volunteers, including immigrants from Liberia. That shipment is expected to arrive in September.
It’s unclear when Ecolab’s shipments will arrive in Liberia and Sierra Leone. The company hoped to send its supplies by airplane, but various restrictions made air shipments difficult, executives said.