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TB Transmission from Cadavers

Health Newsfeed # 1212

Tuberculosis remains among the leading killers in the world. Now, Johns Hopkins researchers have established for the first time that it can even be transmitted during the embalming process. They've documented the case of a mortician who was infected by a cadaver he handled. Flushing out the body's fluids for embalming can cause the release of an aerosol-like mist. That's how TB can hitch a ride from one body to the next. Johns Hopkins Dr. Timothy Sterling directs Baltimore's TB clinic and was lead author of the study. He says there's a gap in the federal regulations to minimize TB exposure.

To date they have not been applied to the funeral home industry because it had been felt that the risk of transmission was quite low. This study suggests that precautions should be taken to prevent transmission in this setting. :14

Precautions like gloves, which most morticians do use....and face masks, which may not always be worn.

At the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, I'm Tom Haederle reporting.

Copyright 2000 The Johns Hopkins University. All rights reserved. Jan.27, 2000/NEJM