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Mortuary Response to VHF - 7 Burial Procedure

Preparing the gravesite is not going to be a ceremonial site or operation. This is going to devastate most family members. Many older cultures have extreme burial procedures by modern standards. Various peoples are rich in culture surrounding the burial practice. This is part of the “farewell” process for the soul of the dear departed family member. These types of burial rites extend back farther than the Egyptians before they built the pyramids!

These ceremonies involve everything from touching and bathing the body before burial to clothing the body in various ceremonial dresses before being placed into the burial vault. A culture deep in these practices are going to view their loved one placed in a bag and tossed into an earthen hole as an assault on their family member and culture as a whole.

At this point, your burial team should have coordinated a position and person respected in the community for which you are operating in. This person (team member) must not only have the translation skills for the local language, but also be an honored member of the community that can ease tensions and spend the appropriate time counseling these family members. It is a good idea to plan this position with international hope or welfare organizations that are intimately involved with all aspects of these communities.

Have them explain why the actual burial and site can only be for immediate family alone. If a mass grave area needs to be chosen for review, this may complicate this directive. Consult with the director of operations from the CDC/WHO (Center for Disease Control/World Health Organization) regarding the particular situation you are operating in and if this guideline can be observed. This may change from situation to situation. Often your team will have to adapt, improvise and overcome these obstacles. What you ultimately DO want to accomplish is to RESOLVE this issue amicably for the local family members. Failure to provide this service could result in rioting which can endanger your personnel and risk subsequent contamination.

Once this process for your locale has been decided, the minimum standard is for the actual burial tomb to be two (2) feet in depth and slightly larger than the body bag to be deposited. This minimizes a lot about what we have just discussed. Any improvements to this minimum will have to be approved by the site coordinator and take into account the size and need of the overall burial area for any anticipated increases in body counts.

Once all transports have been completed, decontamination of the vehicles will need to be established. The following steps must be accomplished for each transport vehicle used in the body transport operation;

1] Staff who disinfects vehicle must be in CPC as in isolation procedure

2] Rinse body carry area with 1:10 bleach solution

3] Let solution soak for ten (10) minutes

4] Rinse well with clean water and let vehicle air-dry. Be sure to rinse well as the solution is corrosive to the vehicle.

To be ready for the next VHF strain outbreaks appreciate some of the many roles of the Mortuary Team members may have to be adapted for each successive strain that becomes a pandemic. By training all your personnel from the responder level up, you will minimize exposure, contamination, and maximize personnel if they have to temporarily substitute into positions other than their intended role. Each new strain will challenge your teams’ adaptability to be successful.

        Haz Mat Mike

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