Posted on October 8, 2014

The CDC Released Guidelines on the Safe Handling of Human Remains That May Contain Ebola

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released guidelines for handling the remains of Ebola patients in the U.S. When someone with Ebola dies, the body remains dangerous as the virus can live in body fluids and tissue as long as they are at room temperature and not dried.

Image: World Health Organization officials prepare to enter Kagadi Hospital in Uganda on July 28. PHOTOGRAPH BY ISAAC KASAMANI, AFP/GETTY IMAGES

The morning of Wednesday, October 8th, 2014 the first person diagnosed with Ebola in the United States passed away according to Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital and Dallas News. A few days prior, the CDC released guidelines for hospitals and mortuaries in the U.S. for managing the remains of a patient who dies of Ebola.

Mortuary Personnel at Same Risk as Hospital Staff

Just as a hospital employee who handles the body of someone with Ebola must wear proper personal protective equipment (PPE), a mortician must take the same precautions. These PPE can include, but are not limited to, a scrub suit and gown, eye protection and a face mask.

Further guidelines from the CDC state that the body of a patient who dies of Ebola must be wrapped in multiple plastic bags that are leak-proof. It must also be disinfected. Following disinfection, the body must either be buried immediately in a sealed casket or cremated. Read the full guidelines from the CDC on infectious human remains.

Patient Bodies Still Dangerous During Postmortem Care

In addition, according to the CDC, “In patients who die of Ebola virus infection, virus can be detected throughout the body. Ebola virus can be transmitted in postmortem care settings by laceration and puncture with contaminated instruments used during postmortem care, through direct handling of human remains without appropriate personal protective equipment, and through splashes of blood or other body fluids (e.g. urine, saliva, feces) to unprotected mucosa (e.g., eyes, nose, or mouth) which occur during postmortem care.

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Are these CDC Guidelines a Warning?

In an interview with CBS 46 in Atlanta, Georgia; when asked if she should be worried about these regulations being published for U.S. funeral homes since it is not currently considered an outbreak of Ebola in the U.S., Alysia English, the Executive Director of the Georgia Funeral Directors Association said: “If you were in the middle of a flood or gas leak, that’s not the time to figure out how to turn it off. You want to know all of that in advance. This is no different.”

Are you a mortician, funeral director, medical examiner or just interested in learning more about managing infectious waste in a funeral home? Download our guide to learn more about funeral homes  and medical waste management.  download the free funeral homes guide to managing medical waste disposal