Biohazard suits 'sell out' amid fears of Ebola outbreak in the UK

Retailers have told ITV News that suits like these are selling in record numbers Credit: Preppers Shop UK
  • By Kai Tabacek: Digital Producer

Suppliers of biohazard suits have said they are selling out fast due to fears of an outbreak of Ebola in the UK.

The so-called NBC suits - or nuclear, biological and chemical suits - are designed to protect the wearer from ambient threats to their health.

One retailer told ITV News that demand for the specialist equipment is such that he has run out of both suits and suppliers. Another said there had been a "marked increase" in sales in recent weeks.

It follows growing concerns about a potential outbreak of Ebola in the UK, especially in light of recent cases in Spain and the US.

Stuart Hurd, owner of SurvivalGear UK, said he normally sells one or two NBC suits a week "if we're lucky". In the past week alone he has sold well over a hundred and "cannot physically get anymore" because his suppliers have also run out.

The threat from epidemics have long been a concern for a niche community of 'preppers' and 'survivalists' who are in the business of planning for the end of civilisation.

For seasoned preppers, Ebola is the latest addition to a host of improbable but valid threats, from solar flares to global economic meltdown. Many of them will already have been stockpiling food and fine-tuning their escape plans for years.

But Stuart Hurd says Ebola has "heightened awareness" of the prepper movement in the UK. Most of his recent customers have been families who have "never thought of buying this kind of stuff before," he said.

Customers have been turning to military surplus gear to offer protection in case of an Ebola outbreak Credit: Preppers Shop UK

Preppers Shop UK, based in Cambridgeshire, has a dedicated 'Emergency Ebola Supplies' section on its website selling everything from NBC socks (£0.99) to a 10-man ration pack (£86.20).

A spokesman for the business said there had been a "marked increase" in demand for protective clothing and gas masks, but that customers are also investing in general supplies like freeze-dried food and bushcraft supplies.

Preppers Shop UK helpfully reminds customers that it also stocks supplies for their 'bug-out bags' - prepper lingo for a survival pack for people who have to leave a city or disease-infected area at short notice.

Experts recommend protective suits like these for people coming into direct contact with Ebola patients Credit: REUTERS/Fabian Bimmer

Recent activity in online forums bear out the idea that Ebola is attracting more people into the prepper fold. A quick search of yields almost 160 Ebola-related posts - 151 of these from the last month.

One post on a preppers forum on Reddit asks whether anyone knows of a good place to buy an "Ebola survival kit". The author writes: "Totally new to prepping and have only recently discovered it was such a thing to be honest."

Some members respond by offering advice ("just cut off human contact") while others seem unconvinced that Ebola is in the same league as nuclear warfare or natural disasters.

'Prepper' glossary:

  • Prepper or survivalist - Someone who prepares for potential catastrophic events.

  • WTSHTF - Stands for 'When The S**t Hits The Fan'. Shorthand for the breakdown of law and order. Also known as 'Doomsday'.

  • Bugging out - To leave a city or infected area in a hurry. Also called 'Getting Out Of Dodge'.

  • Bugging In - Going into isolation, normally in your home.

  • BOB - Stands for 'bug-out bag'. A bag containing everything you would need to survive if you had to 'bug out' at short notice.

  • NBC gear - Clothing that offers protection from nuclear, biological or chemical hazards

  • Off the grid - Denotes a state of complete self-sustenance for a matter of years. The most extreme form of prepping.

  • TEOTWAWKI - Stands for 'The End of the World As We Know It'. A step up from WTSHTF.

There have been no cases of transmission of the Ebola virus in the UK and Public Health England (PHE) has put in place measures to screen passengers arriving from affected countries.

Whilst warning that cases of people arriving in the UK with Ebola are possible, PHE says the risk of it spreading to the general population is minimal.

It also only considers protective clothing, as well as training in its use, to be necessary for those directly handling Ebola patients.