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Haz Mat "Specialist Course"

Mortuary Response to VHF - 5 How to Prepare the Body

To begin the process of proper preparation of the deceased victim (body), the first step is to create the appropriate disinfection solution. This is done by choosing household bleach as the key disinfectant. There are two reasons for this;

1] Household bleach is a globally accessible appropriate disinfectant, and

2] Bleach has the capability to mount a three (3) prong chemical attack upon contagions.

This is done by the precursors of the bleach compound; hydrogen, chlorine, and oxygen. All these elements do have the ability to kill VHF life forms.

In an isolated, clean area from VHF and other contaminants, choose a location to prepare the disinfection solutions. This is critical, as you will revisit this area to replenish these solutions as they are used during the incident, so this area must remain “clean” and under control of the VHF response team security. This area may become busy as the need for additional solution becomes necessary so it should be located adjacent to the isolation treatment area.

You will require two (2) basic solutions to prepare for use during and after the VHF incident;

1] A 1:10 solution for excreta spills, bodies, and laundry this will be a (0.5% solution).

2] A 1:100 solution for cleaning materials, VHF/HCW decontamination, VHF waste bio-hazard bags this will be a (0.05% solution).

If usage is minimal, these bleach solutions MUST be prepared daily on a minimum of a 24hr basis. This is because they lose their strength after 24hours in time. Anytime the odor of bleach is not present the solution must also be discarded.  Anytime the solution becomes clouded or visible contaminant pieces are seen in this solution, discard and remake a fresh batch. Note to personnel making the solution: this solution is caustic; avoid direct contact with the skin and eyes. Be sure the selected mix area is well ventilated. Make sure you have the following supplies on hand at a minimum;

1] Large container for the 1:10 solution

2] Smaller containers for the distribution of 1:100, and 1:10 solutions

3] Measuring cups for volume correct amounts

4] Household bleach in gallon containers (unopened and unscented)

5] Water source

Bleach will hold its strength better when it is unopened and in the unscented form. Once opened and or if the scented type this will decrease the 24hr effectiveness rule. For creation and developing a mixing staff SOP follows the exact following procedure.

1] Mix one (1) part chlorine bleach to nine (9) parts water in whatever total volume you choose to use in a 24hr period. This will take experimentation, so appreciate this starting volume will fluctuate from incident to incident.

2] In the smaller containers mix one (1) part of this mixture to nine (9) of fresh water. This solution is now 1:100 strength.

Mark all containers clearly either 1:10 or 1:100 HCLO. Distribute these to the desired location in your isolation area for use by healthcare personnel. Monitor these solutions every half (1/2) hour or more frequently as needed for patient/healthcare worker usage. Solutions MUST be kept contaminant free to be effective in VHF decontamination.

REPEAT PROCEDURE every 24hrs or as needed depending on time or contamination.

Remember this is an ongoing process, so the Goal is to develop a system that will work for your operations on a continual basis and give you the documentation to demonstrate a sustainably safe incident decontamination solution operation.

Next; the procedure for the deceased should be followed using the freshly made solutions.

1] Place the deceased into a body bag or (mortuary sack) and close it securely.

2] Spray the exterior of the body bag (mortuary sack) with the 1:10 bleach solution.

3] If body bags are not available, wrap the body in two (2) thicknesses of cotton sheets and spray with the 1:10 bleach solution. Then wrap the body in plastic sheeting and secure this wrapping with plastic tape. Next; spray the “body bag wrap” as in step 2.

4] Place the body in a coffin if available. If not, place the body in something that can be used to transport the body to either the burial site or burial site transportation vehicle.

Appreciate; if the “coffin” device to transport the body is to be re-used, it shall have to be decontaminated with the 1:10 spray bleach solution before re-use.

Next month we will look at safe transportation of the body.

               Haz Mat Mike




Mortuary Response to VHF - 4 CPC

Wearing specialized CPC (Chemical Protective Clothing) is a must for all Mortuary Response Operational Teams. Specialized Guidelines are also needed for base knowledge of “Donning & Doffing” of this equipment. Correct preparation of the body is essential before the transport and burial practice can be undertaken. Each response team must highlight these practices for Mortuary Responders protection.

While CPC is recommended for all staff in the patient isolation area, Mortuary Teams need specialized CPC due to the nature of their task. While patient staff is creating a barrier between the disease and the caregiver, they are not involved in the rigorous exercises that handling bodies with great weight and size are common between Mortuary workers. For this type of patient/body work additional precautions must be taken. Due to heavy lifting and manipulation of bodies, thick rubber outer gloves will need to be added to your CPC ensemble’. This protects the responder and allows the CPC choice to yield a higher level of gripping strength. This choice is essential to your Teams needs so choose carefully for the best fit in “workability”. Also, more solution volumes will be used and come into contact with the Mortuary Team member. Therefore thicken or increase your durability materials for your outer splash protective garments to upgrade responder protection.

Mortician Guidelines for the wearing of VHF/CPC are also necessary for safe Team operations to be successful. For the Mortuary Team, who wears VHF/CPC?

1] All Doctors Nurses< healthcare workers who provide direct patient care to VHF patients

2] All support staff cleaning isolation site and or equipment/waste

3] All Laboratory support and analysis staff using VHF specimens

4] Security Officers that MAY operate near patients infected

5] BURIAL TEAMS/Mortuary Responders who are responsible for removing bodies of deceased VHF patients and prepare them for burial

6] Family members who care for VHF patients.

Seeing guidelines demonstrate the clear use of CPC for Mortuary Responders, how do we wear CPC? This process also involves a distinct set of guidelines for the Mortuary Responder. These steps taken from the VHF series on VHF response are summarized as follows;

1] Remove body jewelry and ALL personal items. Store them in a secure area.

This initial step is common to ALL Haz-Mat Responders. Many a story can be told on how responders have lost personal items to contamination by forgetting to remove them first. Having a secure place for personal items, cash, wallets, phones, etc., is critical to future responses and communication between Teams and command. Usually, this can be accomplished through the use of one secure container and one Team member that are NOT entering the Hot Zone of contamination. This person could range in duties from IC to Team leader or anyone in between that is trusted by the Mortuary Team members.

2] Remove street clothes and “don” scrub suit.

This practice is best for preventing contamination contact with personal street clothing. “Scrubs” can be carried or supplied and are easily transported, decontaminated, or destroyed after use. Generally, each Team member should always carry at least one set of scrubs in their personal response bag. These can be replaced whenever possible from scene to scene as they are used. If in the “field” a tent or transport vehicle that one can stand up inside to change clothes is desirable. If at a fixed site, locker-rooms are best utilized by the Team member.

3] Progress through a clean travel route to the CPC donning area, Don level “B” SPLASH protective equipment.

4] “Don” respiratory and face splash protective equipment.

5] “Don” 1st pair of inner nitrile protective gloves, tuck under sleeves.

6] “Don” 2nd pair of outer heavy rubberized work gloves, secure over sleeves.

7] Using the “Buddy” system secure all flaps and tape all openings to skin surface.

Steps 3-7 are not only covered in detail inside the VHF response course, but must be altered in a separate course given to specific Mortuary Team members. This is due to the nature of the work task and MUST be done before responding to these incidents. With all CPC and respiratory equipment, remember once a secure and comfortable fit is achieved, DO NOT adjust(s) AFTER patient or body(s) contact is made. This may cause exposure to the Mortuary Team member. Once CPC has been donned, DO NOT re-enter the general health care facility without first passing through your decontamination process.

In case of an emergency need or a replenishment act for the Mortuary Team, designate a “Buddy” member to serve as a liaison’ in between your work site and the “clean” health care facility. This includes any area that contains equipment caches. Next month we will explore “Hoe to Prepare the Body” for transport and final burial.

  Haz Mat Mike



Mortuary Response to VHF - 3 "Beginnings"

Before we continue with our preparation of proper Mortuary Response it is important as we move towards the decontamination and physical handling of victims and bodies, to understand the complexities of VHF transferrence to infection of Mortuary personnel.

Ebola Virus is just one (1) of the many viral hemorrhagic Fever Pathogens that some feel may have evolved into the environment possibly due to jungle deforestation. As plants check and balance many infectious compounds during growth through photosynthesis, the removal of the natural “balance” of the forest floor may have an impact on the mutation of viral infectious agents and their relative exposure towards man and animals. When the system is altered due to mankind’s interruption of this self-managing ecosystem the release of these agents may be possible.

Ebola is a filovirus which is enveloped, non-segmented, and a negative-stranded RNA virus. This result is a severe disease result with a high case fatality of 50% to 90% mortality amongst those exposed. While advances are constantly being made in medical research, in 2014 there was an absence of a specific treatment or protective vaccine.

From 1970 to present there have been greater than 20 previous Ebola and Marburg (Ebola type) virus outbreaks. The 2014 West Africa Ebola outbreak was caused by Zaire Ebolavirus, currently of which there are five (5) different types known? This is questionaries’ as these five derivatives are the current one’s known to medical research. Are there others unknown? Medical authority experience dictates there is a strong possibility of additional unknown types yet to be found.

Ebola like or VHF viruses are many times referred to as a Zoonotic virus, or one in which comes from animal contact. For this to spread a “host reservoir” is required. Host reservoirs are frequently animals included in the local population’s diet. Evidence suggests that bats may be one of the reservoir hosts for the Ebola virus. Bats that carry the virus can transmit it to Apes, antelope as well as others that may be in the local human food source. Additionally any bat in contact with humans is also capable of transmitting the disease to the local population.

Spillover from ingestion incidents occur from this contact. A Spill-Over event occurs when these animals or humans make contact with a reservoir host. Usually this occurs through the hunting and preparation of the animal meat for cooking and consumption.

Once the first human has been infected, human-to-human contact passes the virus from person to person by contact with blood or bodily fluids of the infected person.

Haz Mat Mike



Mortuary Response to VHF - 2

During the actual response of the 2014 Ebola Outbreak, there were many operational issues and problems that needed to be solved as they presented themselves. Now, these issues can be completely reviewed and adapted for future responses. Evaluating these issues and making corrections, will provide for a more competent response in future generations. Not evaluating and inserting corrections into your operational plan will deteriorate the response and possibly cause needless deaths.

One operational infrastructure adaptation that shall be needed in future responses is that of STAGING. In the 2014 incident medical facilities were initially created to handle low patient/victims. This caused a quick overflow of victims to the point where patients were literally dying in the streets outside the initial hospital facility activated for treatment. Ask yourself; “How many patients can my current plan accommodate”? Is this the probable or possible amount/flow of patients I can expect? Or, is this number/flow inadequate? If it is likely to be inadequate, you have two (2) choices.

1] Expand equipment, personnel, and resources for a response or,

2] Partner with other same resources.

Both of these are obviously a full time position for many months for the emergency manager. In the first choice, your budget needs to be drastically increased as well as permanent employees. Equipment expansion will require additional storage space and or facilities on-site in a secure manner. Additionally, equipment maintenance will increase and require additional support personnel. Response personnel increases stress your total hiring and training infrastructure so there may be increases needed in these departments as well. When deployed to a response, support and supply personnel and resources will also need increasing to accommodate a smooth operation once activated.

Partnering with like organizations for a smooth organized response requires inter-departmental training on a regular basis. As changes occur, multiple groups must be all included as being, on-the-same-page. If geographical distance is an issue, how will you coordinate multi-group training? Is employee transportation possible? Can regular group training be done at simultaneous locations? Can training information be accomplished across an internet medium?  These are some of the considerations that must be taken into account, just for staging but true for all areas of operations!

Another problem was the breakdown (in the initial stages) of ICS between the government and medical staff. This was somewhat political and can be expected when dealing with foreign Nations, but more so in this situation due to the fact that the governments in question did not rely on their SME (Specialists Material Expertise). This is a common failure of the ICS staff and one in which when corrected, can quickly increase the effectiveness of any operational team.

Contract tracing was absent before the WHO/CDC was in a mode of full mobilization. This is a problem directly related to the UN and its medical guidelines but can also be instigated by localized Team directive. Your response group can identify this issue at the initial stages and continue to emphasize to the bigger picture until you receive confirmation that contact tracing protocol has been activated and is functioning. This is a good objective to insure by your Team Leaders and after all, your team members ARE affected by this practice. So this is really a safety issue for your Team. Study has proved that not activating a solid “Contact Tracing” protocol shall increase victim mortality.

Local custom conspiracy theories hampered many objectives from being successful (see film for details).  A cultural attaché is needed for all response groups operating outside of their local geographical operating area. In many cases, an interpreter must be included. If Team members cannot communicate properly with victims or local responders, this will increase cultural conspiracy theories thus making your response more difficult and success questionable.

During the 2014 incident DWB (Doctors Without Borders) staff experienced a high degree of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). Response Teams and the Military have to realize that physicians in general are not used to emergency situations. Their world is usually a controlled environment with disassociation from patients as human beings and looked at as “conditions”. This too, is a coping mechanism for Doctors having to deal with the emotional aspect of invasive patient treatment. Making sure that part of your “personnel” upgrades includes trained counselors in this type of trauma counseling. The goal of your operation is to have all parts flowing functional at the same time. Any one of these mentioned elements have the capability to derail your operational effectiveness.

Finally; an excellent time-line of this operation can be found through the PBS Frontline News group at

Haz Mat Mike




Mortuary Response to VHF 1

The Mortuary Program was developed because of the need to limit contamination by viral attacks upon a geographic location through disease. The mortuary response of the 2014 West Africa outbreak was found to be a major contribution towards the control of large scale pandemics. The rate of disease spread became so fast that increased safe burial protection was found to be a major contributor towards controlling this disease platform.

When a large scale epidemic of a VHF (Viral Hemorrhagic Fever) outbreak presents itself, a mortuary team shall be needed. This will involve safe burial techniques. There is a HIGH risk of transmission in the health care facility when a VHF patient dies as the bodily remains and body fluids of deceased VHF patients remain contagious for several days after death. Family and community members are also at risk if burial practices involved touching and washing the body. Therefore the body must be safely prepared for the actual burial procedure. The Mortuary Team must be made aware of general concepts to keep in mind before the procedure is actuated.

The Mortuary Team members shall need to be trained in the proper “Donning, Doffing and Decontamination Techniques” as the actual patient care members were during our former series of articles on VHF Response Techniques. (See archives). To develop a long term strategy, Mortuary Team members should be included in the base training and all operational training long before deployment. This will mean inclusion in the “Team” operations, training, and general upkeep of a response organization. Do not include contractors that have not participated in your response organizations structure. Inclusion into your Team structure will insure adequate resources and deployable entities that are practicing your “safe” operations throughout the incident.

When highly infectious agents are released epidemics (highly infected local areas) will require a mortuary team to prevent a pandemic (globally infected area) from resulting. Global incidents such as the 2014 West Africa pandemic can stress world-wide resources beyond their limits leading to historic changes. A mortuary team can limit these global changes from becoming world affects.

Local response is generally the best practice for this, as they already have a positive relationship with the general population. This becomes critical during an incident when consoling and passing needed information onto this citizenry. Local “Teams” generally have a much more positive affect with the local patients when the transfer of critical information regarding VHF is needed to insure containment of a possible pandemic.

Safe burial techniques are paramount to limit further contamination and death to the remaining population. Since the infection rate continues after death, due to the high rate of still infectious bodily fluids remaining after death, the need for rapid burial practices need to be implemented by the mortuary team members. In the coming months we shall demonstrate the proper techniques for all Mortuary Team members to follow.

To begin this process, there are three major rules to adopt into your Team structure for the concept process when interacting with the local citizenry. First and foremost the Teams’ emphasis should always be focused on the burial taking place as SOON as possible AFTER the body is prepared. To accomplish this goal, there are three (3) main concepts that should form the basis of a Mortuary Team’s response;

1] Be aware of the family’s cultural practices and religious beliefs. Help the family understand why some of their traditional practices cannot be done because they place the family and citizenry at risk for exposure.

2] Counsel the family about why special steps need to be taken to protect the family and community from illness. If the body is prepared without giving information and support to the family and community, they may not want to bring other family members to the health facility in the future. They may think that if the patient dies, the body will not be returned to them.

3] Identify a family member who has influence with the rest of the family and who can make sure family members avoid dangerous practices such as washing or touching the body.

Next month; Ebola 2014 West Africa “Outbreak” Issues lessons learned for future responses.

Haz Mat Mike


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