Clinical Management

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Dead body management

Introduction / overview

Current knowledge supports that spread of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) usually happens when a person is in close contact (i.e., within about 6 feet) via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks. This route of transmission is not a concern when handling human remains or performing postmortem procedures.

It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes. This is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads, but we are still learning more about transmission of this virus. – CDC

Removal of the body from the room or isolation ward:

  • Perform hand hygiene and ensure proper use of PPE, including gown, goggles/face shield, surgical mask and gloves
  • Remove all tubes, IVs and other lines from the patient
  • Place the body in a leak-proof plastic body bag
  • Decontaminate the exterior of the body bag with chlorine or bleach, as above
  • The family may then be given the body or it may be taken to the mortuary
  • Provide counselling to the family
  • Ensure that all equipment used and the patient’s bed are cleaned, as per the protocol above

Mortuary procedures:

The following protective measures apply in the morgue, as long as no aerosol-generating procedures are carried out:

  • Ensure that mortuary staff wear appropriate PPE, including: gown/apron, goggles/face shield, surgical mask and gloves
  • Contact areas and mattress cover are wiped down with wet disinfectant wipes; allow to air dry
  • Laundry is deposited on the bed in a double bag system
  • Before leaving the morgue, disposable gloves and overskirts are placed in the trash
  • The bed is provided with a “disinfection” label and in the bed centre (impure side) turned over
  • Hygienic hand disinfection must be carried out before leaving the room
  • Ensure daily cleaning of the mortuary, as above, with chlorine or bleach, as above

Sources & links

  • WHO | Infection prevention and control for the safe management of a dead body in the context of COVID-19
WHO-COVID-19-lPC_DBMgmt-2020.1-eng

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