The Corona Virus is spreading rapidly every minute and the impact of this virus on society is very challenging. Countries are closing businesses, restaurants, shops, schools etc to prevent this virus from spreading.
In South Africa the situation is no different than in other countries. President Cyril Ramaphosa announced this week that schools will be closed and large events are prohibited.
The biggest question we get is, can the Corona Virus still spread from a diseased person? The answer is yes it can.
According to the Department of Health the handling of dead bodies should be as follow:
- The act of moving a recently deceased patient onto a hospital trolley for transportation to the mortuary might be sufficient to expel small amounts of air from the lungs and thereby present a minor risk
- A body bag should be used for transferring the body to the mortuary and those handling the body at this point should use full personal protective equipment
- The outer surface of the body bag should be decontaminated immediately before the body bag leaves the ward or anteroom area. This may require at least 2 individuals wearing such protective clothing, in order to manage this process
- The trolley carrying the body must be disinfected prior to leaving the ward or anteroom
- Prior to leaving the ward or anteroom, the staff members must remove their PPE
- Once in the hospital or private mortuary, it would be acceptable to open the body bag for family viewing only (mortuary attendant to wear full PPE). Family to be provided with mask and gloves for the viewing and should not kiss the body.
- Washing or preparing the body is acceptable if those carrying out the task wear PPE. Mortuary staff and funeral directors must be advised by the Environmental Health Practitioner of the biohazard risk.
- If a post mortem is required safe working techniques (for example manual rather than power tools) should be used and full PPE worn.
- The embalming of human remains does not pose a risk, however, the embalmer should wear full PPE.
- After use, empty body bags should be disposed of as health care risk waste.
Conveyance of infectious human remains
- The human remains of a person who, at the time of his or her death suffered from a disease or condition which is capable of transmitting an illness even after death and in the opinion of the health authority concerned, may pose a health hazard or endanger public health in one way or another, may not be conveyed in public in any way unless-
human remains are placed in a polythene bag, sealed in an airtight container,
placed in a sturdy non-transparent sealed coffin, embalmed and/or the total
surface of the body covered with a 5 cm layer of wood sawdust or other
absorbent material which is treated with a disinfectant;
- a medical practitioner declares in writing that in his or her opinion the conveyance of such human remains will not constitute a health hazard;
- No person other than an attending medical practitioner or attending forensic pathologist or a medical practitioner who can prove that they have treated the deceased during illness may certify that the person did not die of an infectious disease.
- such declaration must accompany the human remains at all times during the conveyance and up to the burial; and
- The declaration referred to in sub-regulation 1 shall be shown to an EHP on demand by the person responsible for the conveyance of the human remains.
- No person shall damage a container referred to in sub-regulation (1)(a), or open such container or remove the human remains from the container or come into direct contact with the human remains after it has been sealed without prior approval from an EHP.
Disposal of Human Remains
The burial and/or cremation of the human remains shall be carried out as per the by-laws of the District Municipality where the remains will be disposed of.
These guidelines must be read in conjunction with the Regulations Relating to the Management of Human Remains, Regulation No. R. 363 of 22 May 2013 as framed in terms of the National Health Act, 2003 (act No. 61 of 2003).
Should you have any other queries, please contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org