When an infectious pandemic hits – SARS, swine flu, MERS or Ebola, for instance – health officials in dozens of countries turn to the Israeli company Beth-El Industries  for its IsoArk biological isolation units.

The line was first developed in response to a request from the Israeli Ministry of Health in 2002, as part of Israel’s national preparedness plan during the SARS pandemic. When the Ebola virus pandemic erupted in 2014, Beth-El’s isolation systems were ready to be deployed in hospitals, airports and field hospitals in Africa and around the globe.

Among the many countries that used IsoArk products during that crisis was Spain. The Spanish air force used a stretcher-based IsoArk unit to airlift a Spanish priest infected with Ebola virus disease to Madrid from Liberia. The product was specially designed to withstand a possible scenario of rapid loss of cabin pressure en route.

Miguel Pajares, a 75-year-old Spanish missionary priest who was infected with Ebola while aiding patients in Africa, was safely evacuated in an IsoArk isolation chamber for treatment in Spain. Photo courtesy of EFE
Miguel Pajares, a 75-year-old Spanish missionary priest who was infected with Ebola while aiding patients in Africa, was safely evacuated in an IsoArk isolation chamber for treatment in Spain. Photo courtesy of EFE

Working with the Israeli Health Ministry’s emergency preparedness team, Beth-El also customized an Ebola containment tent for patients who must be kept quarantined for long periods.

This bigger tent with a shower, sink and toilet is kept in the underground emergency hospital at Rambam Medical Center in Haifa in order to keep highly contagious patients away from the main building.

Extra-large isolation tent designed for the Israeli Ministry of Health and deployed in Rambam Medical Center’s underground emergency hospital. Photo courtesy of Rambam Medical Center, Haifa
Extra-large isolation tent designed for the Israeli Ministry of Health and deployed in Rambam Medical Center’s underground emergency hospital. Photo courtesy of Rambam Medical Center, Haifa

The 2,000-bed underground hospital, built to protect against missile attack, also keeps patients and staff safe from chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) threats with air-filtration systems from Beth-El.

The Ebola containment tent is “unique in the world as far as I know,” says Guy Zymann, Beth-El Industries’ regional sales and marketing manager for Southeast Asia. “What made me proud as a citizen is that the head of emergency supplies for the Ministry of Health came to Rambam last spring and initiated a surprise drill in which he acted as an Ebola patient to examine firsthand how well the unit works. He even showered in the tent.”

Portable and easy to assemble

In the world market, Beth-El Industries is a key supplier to many NATO and other armies and NGOs.

In Italy, the International Red Cross asked Beth-El to devise an IsoArk isolation ambulance for transporting groups of migrants suspected of having contagious diseases.

The German army deploys IsoArk tents when soldiers contract an infectious disease overseas, so they can be treated on site while safely quarantined.

Zymann tells ISRAEL21c of several incidents when IsoArk products have provided unique solutions for special circumstances inside Israel.

Two years ago, an Israeli woman returning from Argentina was hospitalized at Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem and tested positive for tuberculosis. She had to be transferred for special respiratory care to Rabin Medical Center in Petah Tikva.

“The condition of her disease was such that the doctors requested that the IsoArk Isolation Chamber be placed inside the intensive care unit. This allowed them to examine her without going into the chamber, which would have required them to repeatedly dress up and down in special protective garments,” says Zymann.

The Israeli NGO Eye From Zion, which provides free cataract surgeries in countries such as Nepal, Vietnam, Myanmar, Kenya and Ethiopia, worked with Beth-El to customize an IsoArk tent as a Mobile Operating Room (MOR).

Eye From Zion doctors using the MOR in the Maldives to do eye surgery. Photo by Nati Marcus/Eye From Zion
Eye From Zion doctors using the MOR in the Maldives to do eye surgery. Photo by Nati Marcus/Eye From Zion

Protecting the inside and outside

Zymann says Beth-El’s mobile isolation units, which he describes as easy to assemble and disassemble without tools, provide high flexibility for different scenarios and can be deployed directly in the problem area. “Yet their cost is still significantly lower than that of stationary isolation units,” he says.

In addition to isolation units designed to keep airborne viruses and bacteria inside, Beth-El Industries makes collective protection systems designed to keep out CBRN threats. Both types of products rely on sophisticated filtration systems.

“When protecting against a CBRN threat, you isolate the inside environment by filtering the incoming air. At the same time, overpressure is created in the protected area to ensure that even if the enclosure isn’t hermetically sealed, the air escaping the chamber prevents contamination from flowing in,” explains Zymann.

“For biological isolation, it’s the other way around. The outside environment is protected from contamination or contagious agents inside the chamber by filtering the air flowing out and creating negative pressure inside.”

Owned by a cooperative community of the same name in northwest Israel, Beth-El Industries was founded 40 years ago as an income source for the community and to help protect Israel’s population. It’s one of six companies in the Beth-El Group, which employs about 1,200 employees. The company makes products ranging from stretchers and personal filters to air-conditioning systems for armored vehicles and air-filtered shelters for residential and public buildings.

For more information, click here.