A Facebook post, shared about 30 times since it was posted on April 30, claims that because of the coronavirus pandemic, the morgue of the regional hospital in Bertoua is no longer receiving the remains of dead people.
"Covid-19: The morgue of the regional hospital of Bertoua no longer receives corpses. Due to the spread of the pandemic in the community, this service responsible for the conservation of the dead no longer receives them. Once someone dies in your family, it is advisable to bury them immediately," the post read.
After verification, it turns out that this information is not true. It is refuted by sources close to the director of this health facility as well as by the regional delegate for public health in the East, Dr. Anicet Désiré Mintop, who is also the manager of the Covid-19 unit in the region.
"The Bertoua regional hospital morgue is functional and to date, there are no problems likely to lead to the cessation of its activities," said the delegate in a press release issued on May 1.
This "misinformation," we learn, arose from the disclosure of the Covid-19 positive status of the Bertoua Regional Hospital morgue’s major.
"The protocol states that when a case is positive somewhere, the premises must be immediately disinfected. This was done. As the morgue’s major was affected, the delegate instructed that one of the morgue attendants (a term commonly used in Cameroon to designate an embalmer, editor's note) from the Abong-Mbang district hospital be moved to replace him. This was also done, so there was no break in the handling of remains at the morgue of the Bertoua Regional Hospital. People rushed to a conclusion once they learned the major of the morgue was infected with covid-19,” reliable sources at the Eastern Regional Public Health delegation explained.
According to our sources, the other agents in the morgue have tested negative, which means that they are not contaminated with the coronavirus. To date, the Eastern Region has 19 positive cases with no deaths.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there is currently no evidence of people getting infected after being exposed to the bodies of people who died from Covid-19. “Except in cases of hemorrhagic fevers (such as Ebola, Marburg) and cholera, dead bodies are generally not infectious. Only the lungs of patients with pandemic influenza, if handled improperly during an autopsy, can be infectious. Otherwise, cadavers do not transmit disease," says the WHO.
However, since Covid-19 is a new virus whose source is not yet well known, the WHO considers that "additional precautions" may be needed until new data become available, particularly when transferring a patient from a health care room to the morgue. It recommends that people working with the dead should wear full personal protective equipment, including gloves and masks.
The UN agency published an “infection control guideline for the safe management of a deceased person's body in the context of Covid-19,” which can be read here.
Patricia Ngo Ngouem