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The body of Ebola victim Thomas Eric Duncan will be treated with extreme caution because the virus that killed him can live in bodily fluids and tissues as long as they stay wet and at room temperature.
Many deaths have been linked to the handling of bodies in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, so the U.S. Centers for Disease Control has clear guidelines for hospitals and mortuaries that might handle the remains of anyone who succumbs to Ebola.
At the Dallas hospital where Duncan died on Wednesday morning, anyone who had contact with the body must wear personal protective equipment that includes a scrub suit, cap, gown over the suit, eye protection, face mask, shoe covers and two pairs of gloves. Afterward, they must take off that gear very carefully and wash their hands thoroughly.
Duncan's body must be wrapped in a plastic shroud and should not be washed. The protocol calls for it to be placed into a zippered leak-proof plastic bag and then into a second bag. The bags and the room will then be disinfected.
The driver who takes the body to the mortuary does not need to wear the protective gear, but the mortuary workers should. The body should be either cremated or placed into a hermetically sealed casket — at which point the remains are deemed safe enough for a funeral.
The CDC and state and local transportation authorities will coordinate and transport of the body.