According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) the Ebola virus is most prevalent after the death of its victim. Under the guidelines established by the CDC, after an Ebola victim dies their body should be quickly wrapped in a plastic shroud, after which it must be sealed in two leak-proof disinfected bags. Workers must remain cautious during this process by wearing protective clothing, goggles and gloves.
Ebola lives on in the remains of its deceased victim. Lethal viral loads flood saliva, blood, tears and urine and will quickly affect any life it comes in contact with. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), fluids outside the body and in death are highly contagious for at least three days after the victim takes their last breath.
Thomas Eric Duncan succumbed to the Ebola virus on Wednesday morning not long after he brought the virus across the American borders. The 42-year-old Liberian man died at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital after hospital staff worked hard to save him. In keeping with CDC’s standards Duncan’s remains have already been transported for cremation.
The family of the victim was denied any physical contact with Duncan’s remains but were allowed to view his body. Reportedly, the family agreed with the recommendation of health officials to have the body cremated. After cremation the ashes of Duncan will be returned to the family and there will no longer be a need for them to wear any protection. Tom Frieden, CDC Director, said:
When someone dies, there are large quantities of the virus. Cremation kills the virus.
Due to the nature of Duncan’s death his family was not privy to the tradition funeral ritual West Africans are accustomed to. Typically after a death in Liberia there is excessive handling of the deceased by the family and other loved ones. The funeral generally involves a night-long viewing of the remains which is followed by funeral services and burial. A big party is held afterwards to console the bereaved and honor the dead with singing and African dishes.
Director of the Center for Emergency Management and Homeland Security Police Research, Dr. Terry O’Sullivan, said “With fluids emanating from every opening in the body, and potentially every pore, it comes as no surprise that West African burial rituals pose such danger.” He added:
They are extremely dangerous. Those that have just died are loaded with virus, in all their fluids. That is in fact the worst point because their immune systems are failed and they are leaking out of every orifice and a high concentration of the virus is secreted on the skin of the dead.
Duncan arrived in Dallas on Sept. 20 after flying in from Liberia. He went to Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital after feeling ill six days later. At that time he was sent home with antibiotics to recover. He returned to the hospital on Sept. 28 and was admitted, isolated and confirmed contaminated with the Ebola virus.
Thomas Eric Duncan spent his last few days on a ventilator and was receiving kidney dialysis. He died four days after his condition had been downgraded from serious to critical. The Texas Department of State Health Services confirmed within hours of his death his body would be cremated according to protocol given by the federal government to prevent the Ebola virus from spreading and acquiring new victims.
By: Cherese Jackson (Virginia)