PESHAWAR: The Relief Department of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has issued guidelines for handling bodies of those patients who die of coronavirus infection.

According to a notification issued by the KP Relief Department, the main driver of transmission of COVID-19 is through droplets, therefore, there is unlikely to be an increased risk of COVID infection from a dead body to health workers or family members who follow the standard operating procedures (SOPs) while handling the body. It said that only the lungs of the dead COVID patients, if handled during an autopsy, can be infectious.

Sharing the key SOPs, the Relief Department said that standard infection prevention control practices should be followed at all times. It said the main SOPs include hand hygiene; use of personal protective equipment i.e. use of water resistant apron, gloves, masks eyeware etc; safe handling of sharps; disinfecting the bag housing the dead body, instruments and devices used on the patient and disinfecting the environmental surfaces.

The notification said all the staff identified to handle bodies in the isolation area, mortuary, ambulance and those working in the burial ground should be trained in the infection prevention control practices. The health workers removing the body must strictly observe hand hygiene; ensure use of water resistant apron, googles, face mask and gloves and all tubes, drains and other things used on the body must be carefully removed. Any wounds caused by removal of equipment must be immediately disinfected.

The notification said extreme caution must be observed while handling sharp devices used on the patient and these should be disposed in a container which must also be disinfected. The oral and nasal orifices must be plugged to prevent leakage of body fluids. The SOPs mentioned that the body must be placed in a leak-proof plastic body bag and additionally kept in a wooden coffin after which it can be handed over to the family members. All the used items and equipment must be decontaminated with established infection prevention control practices. All surfaces of infection area must be cleaned 1 percent sodium hypochlorite solution with allowing contact time of 30 minutes and then an air dry.

The SOPs recommended that autopsies of the COVID-19 bodies must be avoided.