US Hospitals Unprepared to Handle Ebola Waste

U.S. hospitals may be unprepared to safely dispose of the infectious waste generated by any Ebola virus disease patient to arrive unannounced in the country, potentially putting the wider community at risk, biosafety experts said.

Waste management companies are refusing to haul away the soiled sheets and virus-spattered protective gear associated with treating the disease, citing federal guidelines that require Ebola-related waste to be handled in special packaging by people with hazardous materials training, infectious disease and biosafety experts told Reuters.

Many U.S. hospitals are unaware of the regulatory snafu, which experts say could threaten their ability to treat any person who develops Ebola in the U.S. after coming from an infected region. It can take as long as 21 days to develop Ebola symptoms after exposure.

The issue created problems for Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, the first institution to care for Ebola patients here. As Emory was treating two U.S. missionaries who were evacuated from West Africa in August, their waste hauler, Stericycle, initially refused to handle it. Stericycle declined comment.