US hospitals unprepared for Ebola-related medical waste

Some U.S. hospitals might be prepared to treat the Ebola virus, but are they prepared to dispose of Ebola-related waste? Probably not, which could threaten public safety, according to a report by Reuters.

Emory University Hospital in Atlanta treated two patients who became infected with the disease in West Africa, who generated up to 40 bags of medical waste a day, Reuters reported.

Initially, the hospital's waste management company refused to pick up exposed sheets and protective equipment, citing regulations that Ebola-related waste must be handled in special packaging by those with hazardous materials training, according to the article. Emory kept the waste on site in 32-gallon rubber, sealable bins, until the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) finally brokered a deal with the waste management company to pick up the waste.

The virus spreads through bodily fluids, which would be considered biohazards and require special handling and disposal that not many hospitals are prepared for, according to The Hill. That means hospitals must create a logistical disposal plan now.

However, the CDC's guidelines, which advise hospitals to place Ebola-infected items in leak-proof containers and discard them as they would other biohazards, are different from the Department of Transportation (DOT), which recommends the special packaging and personnel trained in hazardous materials, Reuters reported.

Gavin Macgregor-Skinner, an expert on public health preparedness at Pennsylvania State University, said the CDC and the DOT are working together to resolve the issue. The CDC guidelines are proven to prevent infection in the handling of waste from HIV, hepatitis, and tuberculosis patients, he told Reuters.

Containment is one of the major issues regarding the spread of the virus. The World Health Organization projects Ebola will infect 20,000 people in November, FierceHealthcare previously reported. The CDC warns it could infect up to 1.4 million by January if cases continue to increase exponentially and go underreported.

To learn more:
- here's the Reuters article
- read The Hill article

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