When Thomas Eric Duncan arrived in the United States from Liberia, he didn’t show any signs of the Ebola infection and was in fact healthy. However within four days, the symptoms showed up and he was diagnosed as the first Ebola patient in the US. Although care was taken to give him a rigorous treatment, he lost the battle on Wednesday and was pronounced as dead in Dallas where he was undergoing treatment.
Now the officials handling Duncan’s case have in front of them the challenge of taking care of his body remains and making sure at the same time that the deadly disease is not transmitted to anyone else in the process. This is a very crucial task as per the WHO and the document issued by CDC which clearly states that the virus becomes much more deadly once the victim is dead as then it takes over his or her entire body and greatly increases the chances of the infection spreading to other people.
Texas Department of State Health Services which has been vested with the responsibility of respectfully taking care of Mr Duncan’s remains released a statement saying that the organization will make sure that all the measures are taken to safely cremate the patient’s body so the remains can be sent over to his family members who can mourn in peace without the risk of catching the infection.
The people who are at the highest risk of catching this fatal infection are the health-care workers who work with either the patients or their remains. The risk of the infection from getting transmitted highly increases after the death of a patient suffering from the infection as the dead bodies are more contagious than when the patient is alive. Some of the main reasons for this are that once the patient is dead, the virus gets free access to the entire body without any fight from the other side, and adding to these troubles is the passage of various fluids during the last stages of this disease which transmit the disease much faster than otherwise.
CDC in the US issued a useful document in the month of August on handling the remains of Ebola infected patients both in hospitals and in the mortuaries. This step was taken after an American doctor treating such patients in the African countries returned with positive infection in his system. Like any fast spreading infection, this too has been warned to transmit from a victim’s body via any cuts or lacerations either in the treating person’s body or the protective gear. The various steps taken during the postmortem inspection that involve getting accidentally splashed by bodily fluids like saliva, blood, urine, or feces that can enter the healthy person’s body through unprotected mucosa like mouth, eyes or nose can be a cause for the infection to spread.
The CDC advises the workers handling such infected bodies to wear proper and safe protective gear, use a plastic shroud to wrap the body and then add additional cover by covering it with two more sealed bags and then follow the decontamination procedure. The Center advises against any autopsy procedures on the body remains and recommends a hermetically sealed casket to use for the burial process.
With the number of deaths increasing at an alarming rate, the infection has been termed as a Epidemic in the West African countries like Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea where already 3,857 people have died due to this infection. The authorities there are facing various troubles with disposing the remains of the dead patients as not only is this a very complicated and dangerous procedure, the workers involved in the burial have been continuously waging wars against the government complaining that they are not getting enough pay and allowance for the risk they are undertaking. The infrastructure and the regional traditions of burial in these regions are further adding to the difficulties and are also creating a huge strife between the people who have lost their loved ones to this deadly infection and the ones who are handling their remains.