Using Ebola as a Lens to Examine Medical Waste Sterilization

AuthorNina Shaafi Kabiri,Kevin Thomas,Maureen McMahon,John Broderick,Taha Masri,Justin McCullen,Teija Corse,Joshua Margulies
Published date01 December 2015
Date01 December 2015
Using Ebola as a Lens to Examine Medical Waste
Teija Corse, Kevin Thomas, John Broderick, Nina Shaaf‌i Kabiri,
Joshua Margulies, Taha Masri, Justin McCullen, and Maureen McMahon
The Ebola outbreak in the Fall of 20 14 exposed issues surrounding the medical waste disposal of
Category A substances. Current re gulations by the Centers for Disease Con trol and Prevention
and the Department of Transportat ion on the disposal of Category A medica l waste state that the
waste must be sterilized before di sposal. Approved methods of steri lization are autoclaving and
incineration. For hospital s that do not have on-site autocl aves large enough to sterilize th e
immense amount of waste, the y must contract with companies to transport the wast e to an off-
site sterilization center . Hospitals are required to foll ow the UN system of triple-packagi ng
medical waste for transport ation. Hospitals in the United S tates that treated Ebola patien ts
during the outbreak faced the is sue of having to transport an immen se amount of waste to off-
site facilities. A focus on me dical waste sterilization h as led to the development of new
technologies that can allow hos pitals to sterilize their increase d amount of medical waste on-site.
These new technologies have the pote ntial to better prepare hospitals for Ca tegory A infection
outbreaks, and help limit t he risk of both in-hospital ex posure and out-of-hospital exposures that
can occur during waste tra nsportation.
KEY WORDS: Ebola, medical waste, Category A, sterilization, autoclaves
The Fall 2014 Ebola virus outbreak has provided insight into issues
concerning decontamination of medical waste that can be applied to all infectious
diseases for which transmission occurs via contact with contaminated materials.
Ebola virus is classif‌ied as a Category A infectious substance, as exposure to it
can cause life-threatening or fatal disease (World Health Organization [WHO],
2007). In examining the regulated process by which medical facilities had to
handle contaminated medical waste during this Ebola virus outbreak, it is evident
that the lengthy process required to properly dispose of contaminated medical
waste is excessive, and has the potential to be simplif‌ied while still maintaining
proper sterilization protocol.
World Medical & Health Policy, Vol. 7, No. 4, 2015
1948-4682 #2015 Policy Studies Organization
Published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc., 350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148, USA, and 9600 Garsington Road, Oxford, OX4 2DQ.

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