- OTTAWA - The World Health Organization is meeting in Geneva, Switzerland
this week to talk about Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. The rare illness attacks
the brain, and is linked to so-called "mad cow disease" in Britain.
- Scientists from all over the world are
in Geneva. They're hoping to set up guidelines for health care and funeral
workers who deal with C.J.D. victims.
- Creutzfeldt Jakob disease has become
a worry for the people who treat victims. In fact, some funeral workers
in Canada and the U.S. are now refusing to embalm the bodies of people
who've died of the disease.
- Medical studies show that the infectious
agent doesn't die under standard sterilization, such as heat or chemicals.
- The biggest danger for the embalmer is
contact with the highly infectious brain and spinal fluids.
- "The scary part about C.J.D. is
we don't have the proper equipment," says Patrick McGarry, an Ottawa
funeral director. "It's very expensive, beyond our means for just
an embalming. We do have specialized solutions. But they haven't found
anything that will kill this disease."
- McGarry's policy is not to embalm. But
not all funeral workers refuse the service; in fact, some have never even
heard of the disease.
- The World Health Organization is hoping
to get the word out. Ottawa bioethicist, Burleigh Trevor Deutsh is at this
- "The World Health Organization has
the responsibility to keep an eye out for this kind of thing and to set
up rules of practise, safe practice, that are applicable world wide, because
of the uniqueness of C.J.D. This is an ideal for the WHO to address."
- The meeting is expected to result in
new infection control guidelines for hospital, home care and funeral home
settings. It may include rules about destroying surgical instruments used
on C.J.D. patients. Funeral homes may also be encouraged to buy specialized,
hi-tech sterilization equipment.
- Health Canada expects to put out its
own infection control guidelines next fall.