Healthy Choices

Hazmat suits sell out in midst of Ebola crisis

Nikki Trent, a manager, at Evangeline’s Costume Mansion says this is the last hazmat suit she has in stock on Sunday, Oct. 26, 2014 in Sacramento, Calif. This Halloween costume is based on the character Walter White on ‘Breaking Bad’ played by actor Bryan Cranston.
Nikki Trent, a manager, at Evangeline’s Costume Mansion says this is the last hazmat suit she has in stock on Sunday, Oct. 26, 2014 in Sacramento, Calif. This Halloween costume is based on the character Walter White on ‘Breaking Bad’ played by actor Bryan Cranston. rbyer@sacbee.com

Hazmat suits are a hot item at Sacramento Halloween stores this year, as well as across the country.

The reason, some say, is the outbreak of the Ebola virus in West Africa. The virus, which causes fever, hallucination and internal and external bleeding, is transmitted through contact with the bodily fluid of the infected person. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that all persons caring for Ebola patients wear full personal protective equipment – gloves, gowns, masks, goggles and face protectors, if not full hazardous materials suits.

Costume versions of those items are currently sold out at Party City, Halloween City and some Spirit Halloween locations in Sacramento. At Evangeline’s in Old Sacramento, they’ve had to reorder the hazmat suit costume several times because it kept selling out, said manager Nikki Trent.

In a section of the store labeled “The Lab,” where customers can find scrubs, syringes, fake blood by the gallon and other spooky medical garb, a yellow gown hangs with a bag of gloves and a face mask. It’s marketed as a costume for those who want to be Walter White – a chemistry teacher turned methamphetamine maker from the hit show “Breaking Bad” – for Halloween.

Trent said repurposing it for an Ebola-themed costume would be “topical,” but not the best idea. “That’s not Halloween scary – that’s real-life scary,” she said.

Whether or not Ebola as a Halloween gag is in good taste has been a point of contention across social media platforms and in national news. A Dallas-area man made headlines last week for putting an Ebola quarantine scene, complete with “biohazard” bins and yellow caution tape, on his front lawn. Dressed in a face mask and white protective suit labeled “CDC Trainee,” homeowner James Faulk told the Associated Press he wanted to “have fun on Halloween and scare some people in the process.”

Robin Kirk, a therapist at Sacramento’s Sage Psychotherapy, said making humor out of a serious situation could be a defense mechanism, and that people lighten the mood in order to keep frightening situations “at arm’s length, kind of a whistling-past-the-graveyard kind of thing.”

On a more serious note, she said, a representation of a real-life threat could cause a shock to those more prone to worry about their safety. “If someone walks in in a hazmat suit, that’s probably going to cause a lot of anxiety for people at the party,” she said. “It would definitely give people a start.”

Some shoppers, including Davis Senior High School student Angela Fleming, said the Ebola-themed costume is just a bad idea. She’s heard of a few people at school planning Ebola costumes. “It’s not really a laughing matter,” she said. “There are lots of things you can go as, there’s no need to make a joke of this.”

Online costume retailer BrandsonSale disagrees. The company sells an “Ebola containment suit” costume for $80, promising it will be the most “viral” item of the year.

Justin Fleury, manager at Spirit Halloween in Natomas, said the hazmat suit costume has garnered a lot of attention this season, though no one has been looking specifically for an Ebola costume.

“I think it’s a ‘Breaking Bad’ thing,” he said. “We were selling them before Ebola was really coming down.”

Call The Bee’s Sammy Caiola, (916) 321-1636.

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