The Sunday News
Robin Muchetu, Senior Reporter
THE World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned against embalming and cremation of Covid-19 bodies as there are high chances the virus can spread to people tending to the bodies.
In its latest guidelines for infection prevention and control for the safe management of Covid-19 bodies, WHO said the virus does not die when a person dies.
“There is a common assumption that people who died of a communicable disease should be cremated to prevent spread of that disease; however, there is a lack of evidence to support this. Cremation is a matter of cultural choice and available resources. The safety and well-being of those who tend to dead bodies is critical,” WHO said.
The world body said before attending to a dead body, people should ensure that necessary hand hygiene supplies and facilities, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), and cleaning and disinfection supplies are readily available citing the need to also respect traditions of various people.
“The dignity of the dead, their cultural and religious traditions, and their families should be respected and protected throughout. All measures should respect the dignity of the dead including avoiding hasty disposal of the body of a person who has died of Covid-19. Authorities should manage each dead body on a case by-case basis, balancing the rights of the family, the need to investigate the cause of death,” said WHO. WHO added that only trained personnel must handle dead bodies to ensure that bodily fluids are contained.
“Trained medical staff should ensure that any leakage of body fluids from orifices are contained, keep any movement or handling of the body to a minimum, not disinfect the body before its transfer to the mortuary area, or at any other time, wrap the body in cloth, and transfer it as soon as possible to the mortuary area.
“Safety procedures for managing the bodies of deceased persons infected with Covid-19 should be consistent with those that apply to the autopsies of people who have died of an acute respiratory illness or other infectious diseases. If the person died of Covid-19 while he or she was infectious, the lungs and other organs may still contain live virus. If the body of a person with suspected or confirmed Covid-19 is selected for autopsy, health-care facilities must ensure that safety measures are in place to protect those performing the autopsy.”
WHO added that mortuary staff or funeral home workers who will be preparing the body by washing the body, tidying/shaving hair, or trimming nails, should wear appropriate PPE according to standard Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) precautions and risk assessment, including gloves, impermeable gown or gown with impermeable apron, medical mask, eye protection (face shield or goggles) and closed footwear or footwear protection.
“Embalming is not recommended in order to avoid excessive manipulation of the body. However, if embalming is done, it should be performed by trained, experienced staff, following standard IPC precautions. If the family wishes to view the body, allow them to do so, but instruct them not to touch or kiss the body, to maintain at least one-metre distance from one another and any staff during the viewing and to perform hand hygiene after the viewing.”
On Friday, the country recorded two deaths in Harare and Manicaland, taking the death toll from Covid-19 to 224. Infections tally was at 7 479 and recoveries were at 5 660, leaving only 1595 active cases, giving the country a recovery rate from Covid-19 of 76 percent.