How Remains of Ebola Victim Thomas Eric Duncan Will Be Handled

PHOTO: Thomas Eric Duncan, seen here in this 2011 file photo, was the first patient diagnosed with Ebola in the U.S.PlayWilmot Chayee/AP Photo
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The body of Thomas Eric Duncan,the first person to die of Ebola in the U.S., will be cremated, Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Centers said today.

Duncan's body will be enclosed in two bags and the bags will then be disinfected, the hospital said in a statement today.

"After that careful preparation, the body will be cremated. CDC guidelines say remains infected with Ebola can be cremated or 'buried promptly in a hermetically sealed casket,'" the statement said.

The hospital said that because of the preparations "the body can be transported without the need for protective gear for a driver or others who are near the body but don't handle the remains."

According to CDC documents, only people trained in handling infected human remains and wearing proper safety gear should touch or move any Ebola-infected remains. Handling and transportation should be kept to a minimum and an autopsy should be avoided unless absolutely essential.

The body should not be washed or cleaned in any way and should be wrapped in plastic to prevent contamination. Following the removal of the body, the hospital room should be thoroughly disinfected. So long as the body is safely shrouded in plastic, any transport drivers do not need to wear protective gear.

Once the body arrives at the mortuary, the agency does not recommend embalming. The shrouded body should be placed directly into a hermetically sealed casket by trained mortuary personnel wearing head-to-toe protective gear. The remains should then be immediately buried or cremated.

If Duncan’s body is to be transported back to West Africa, the family will need to comply with the regulations of the country of destination, and will have to be coordinated in advance with U.S. health authorities.

"Surely the disposal of Mr. Duncan's body will be done with the utmost respect and also with all consideration for public safety," said Dr. William Schaffner, infectious disease expert and chairman of the Department of Preventive Medicine at Vanderbilt University.