The Ministry of Health & Family Welfare: Issue of Guidelines on Dead Body Management

On 15th March 2020, the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare issued guidelines on dead body management of people suffering from COVID-19, since it is a new disease and there is insufficient knowledge regarding the disposal of the dead body of a person having, or suspected to have had, COVID-19.

The guidelines state that since the transmission of COVID-19 mostly happens through droplets it is unlikely that any healthcare staff or family member handling the dead body shall contract it. However, the lungs of a patient being handled during autopsy can be infectious.

Precautions to be followed by health care workers while handling dead bodies of people having COVID-19 are:

  1. Hand hygiene.
  2. Use of personal protective equipment (e.g., water resistant apron, gloves, masks, eye-wear).
  3. Safe handling of sharps.
  4. Disinfect bag housing dead body, instruments and devices used on the patient.
  5. Disinfect linen. Clean and disinfect environmental surfaces.

Training in infection and prevention control practices:

All staff who will be required to handle dead bodies in the isolation area, mortuary, ambulance and the workers in the crematorium/burial ground should be trained in the infection prevention control practices.

The guideline further speaks about the procedure to remove the dead bodies from the isolation rooms or areas and cleaning and disinfection of the isolation area. It speaks about the transportation of the dead body and the precaution to be followed at the crematorium or burial ground.

The guidelines also state that autopsies of dead bodies of people suffering from COVID-19 shall be avoided. If an autopsy has to be performed due to special reasons the precautions and practices given in the guidelines shall be followed, like:

a. Limited number of forensic experts and support staff shall be present in the room.

b. To reduce the chances of prick injuries, PM40 or any other heavy-duty blades with blunted points shall be used.

c. Only one body cavity should be dissected at a time.

d. After the autopsy procedure is complete, the body should be disinfected with 1% Sodium Hypochlorite and placed in a body bag, the exterior of which will again be decontaminated with 1% Sodium Hypochlorite solution.