Ebola is the probably most concerning issue in our country right now… or at least the most trending issue. There’s tons of concern that hospitals were not well-prepared beforehand to deal with Ebola-stricken patients. This is why we saw now 2 nurses from Dallas that are infected with the disease.
Ebola is spread through bodily fluids (blood or vomit, for example) and is still infectious for several days after contact. With the extreme panic over the spread of this dangerous virus, a lot of concern must be taken into consideration regarding the movement of soiled items, infected patients or corpses, and items that have possibly come in contact with Ebola microbes.
So what we do we do with the contaminated materials these Ebola patients come in contact with or produce? How is the U.S. Department of Transportation dealing with the safety of the truckers who are hauling this medical waste?
Earlier this month, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) issued a special permit to an Illinois-based medical waste transportation company, Stericyde, to allow the infected Ebola patient Dallas to have his infectious items removed. Additionally, the same company also handled waste from the doctor in Atlanta who also had been infected with Ebola.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) is now releasing major DOT regulations for how to handle moving infectious substances for moving in highway, air, rail, or water. First off, what exactly is considered a Category A Infectious Substance?
According to the PHMSA, Category A Infectious Substances are:
- “A Category A infectious substance is a material known or reasonably expected to contain a pathogen, such as Ebola, that is in a form capable of causing permanent disability or life threatening or fatal disease in otherwise healthy humans or animals when exposed to it.
- An infectious substance classification is based on the patient or animal’s known medical history or symptoms, endemic local conditions, or professional judgment concerning the individual circumstances of the source human or animal. “
The Difference Between Category A Waste & Category B Waste
Category A Infectious substances are different from regulated medical waste (Category B.) In short Category A’s are thought to be so potentially life-threatening that the utmost precautions need to be placed. Category B’s are not the type of medical waste that is though to be “capable of causing permanent disability or life-threatening or fatal disease in otherwise healthy humans or animals.
What Ebola-Contaminated Health Products Need to be Regulated for Transport?
Medical equipment, sharps, used products (soiled dressings, bed pans, gowns, masks, gloves, goggles, face shields, respirators, booties, portable toilets, cleaning by products.)
When contaminated Category A infectious substances are transferred they must be packed (generally) in:
“(1)primary watertight receptacle,
(2) watertight secondary packaging, and
(3) rigid outer packaging.”
Resources to explore:
- “Transporting Infectious Substances Safely” brochure that explains the HMR for transporting infectious substance is available at:
- Information on applying for a special permit is available at:
- All Center for Disease Control guidance regarding Ebola is available at:
- Refer to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) for guidance on handling these agents before transporting them (see http://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/hcp/index.html).
As news on Ebola in the U.S. unfolds, hopefully we will continue to use our guidelines our government has issued to prevent further spread of the disease. Unfortunately, there are too many unknowns for Ebola so until we can learn more all we can do is to take all the precautions available to avoid further spread of the virus.