The Care Cube: Fast, Cheap, and Effective Ebola-fighting Solutions with a Human Touch


While Ebola rarely hits the front page today, it’s still here, and still as deadly as ever. Over the past year, more than 2,700 cases have hit the Democratic Republic of Congo, resulting in more than 1,800 deaths—at least 500 of which have been children[1]. At a current pace of more than 80 new cases per week (more than some outbreaks have in total) today’s outbreak in the DRC has been granted the undesirable distinction of runner-up to the largest outbreak in history[2]. And while a few new drugs are showing promise as effective treatments[3], stopping Ebola’s spread before it starts is still a huge part of keeping a few cases from turning into a country-hopping epidemic.

To combat such a contagious and nimble disease takes equally nimble solutions. Otherlab’s Care Cube—a portable, disposable, and low-cost negative pressure unit that one person can inflate in just a few minutes—makes it possible to respond quickly, and all but eliminates the need for cumbersome hazmat suits.

One of the main pillars of any effort to contain and prevent the spread of Ebola—and one that is perhaps most often overlooked—is community engagement. To get treated, people have to trust aid workers and the systems in place. Many communities, particularly remote ones, are suspicious of outside help, especially when that help shows up dressed like storm troopers and whisks infected loved ones out of sight to quarantine. 


The Care Cube reduces the scare factor with an aesthetic that’s a lot less Star Wars villain-y and a lot more “going camping” or “kid’s birthday bouncy house.” Transparent windows let loved ones see their family members receiving treatment, rather than simply wonder where they’ve been taken, and a “hug wall,” allows for physical comfort in the form of hugs and hand holding. 

Not only does the Care Cube make for a more human experience for families and patients, building community trust in the process, but it’s also safer and more convenient for medical personnel. 

Image Courtesy: European Commission DG ECHO

Image Courtesy: European Commission DG ECHO

Where existing solutions tend to rely on hazmat suits—suits with a high potential for user error and thus infection—the Care Cube inverts the whole model. Focusing on containing the patient allows for the vast majority of caregiver interactions to happen safely from outside. And the “hug wall” isn’t just for giving hugs. It gives medical personnel protected access to the patient and the entire interior of the cube, making simple medical procedures like checking vitals possible without the need for suit changes. An air lock system with two-stage zippered entrances allow food and other items to be safely passed into the Cube, as well as waste to be safely passed out. A fan circulates fresh air, while a membrane-based gravity filter removes the virus before air leaves the tent. 

The Care Cube is also wholly customizable. Software tools allow caregivers to tweak containment designs to meet the specific needs of the communities and geographies they serve.


Beyond a basic bed, each Care Cube can also be outfitted with a variety of hygiene solutions, from bucket-style toilets, to showers, to in-ground drain and septic systems.

While dedicated Ebola Treatment Units (units designed specifically for containing and treating infected individuals) have been proven to work, they take time to build, and require a minimum scale—two factors that make them ineffective against small-scale outbreaks. Otherlab’s Care Cube, on the other hand, costs as little as $100 at base, fits into a backpack, and takes just a few minutes for one person to inflate. Not only that, but many Care Cubes, together, makes for a rapid and robust Community Care Center—one that takes hours or days to assemble, not weeks. 


In reality, Ebola is a sneaky bug, and even the biggest outbreaks start small. For instance, according to the CDC, the largest outbreak in history began with one 18-month-old boy in a small village in Guinea[3]. In a month, one case became 5, and ultimately more than 28,600 across 10 countries and two years[4]. It spreads fast, and to contain it, we must be faster. The Care Cube gives a huge edge in speed, makes care safer and easier for caregivers, and comes with a built-in way to hug a sick partner or child or parent when they likely need it most.

Nic Albert