UTMB Galveston agrees to dispose of Ebola medical waste

GALVESTON – Amid growing concerns about the transmission of Ebola, UTMB-Galveston announced it's agreed to accept medical waste from Ebola patients.

Patients' belongings have been collected, disinfected and then burned at a facility in Port Arthur.

But now state health officials have asked UTMB to dispose of medical waste from Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas.

RELATED: Gov. Rick Perry calls for travel ban due to Ebola

The medical center in Galveston is home to some of the top Ebola researchers in the world and a level 4 biosafety lab called the Galveston National Laboratory where they've been researching Ebola and other infectious diseases. Now it says it's ready to dispose of the waste.

UTMB's president David Callender says they are willing to accept the patents and waste quite simply because they can handle the threat.

Galveston Mayor Pro Tem Terrilyn Tarlton supports UTMB's decision.

"I think I it's probably one of the smartest moves that Texas could make because UTMB -- this is what they are known for," Tarlton said. "And they have been studying the Ebola virus for 10 years. The state is contacting us because we're the ones that can take care of it."

The hospital is not currently treating anyone with Ebola, nor do they presently have any Ebola medical waste.

But in the future, what kinds of waste will be handled and from which Ebola patients?

Initially UTMB said those details would be released at a news conference Thursday evening. But hours later, that news conference was postponed until Friday at 1 p.m. The governor is also planning a news conference for Friday morning.

State Representative Joe Deshotel, (D) Beaumont, discussed the plan with Health and Human Services Commissioner Kyle Janek on Wednesday.

"The traditional medical waste and bodily fluids, and syringes and things normally classified as medical waste," Deshotel explained. "Tissues and wipes and all that would be destroyed at UTMB."

The federal government acknowledges the risk in transporting Ebola-contaminated waste.

Only one company is permitted by the USDOT to move the materials, and then only if the waste is tripled-bagged, secured in two drums, and carried in trucks carrying written spill plans and protective equipment for drivers.

Appearing before Congress Thursday, the director of the Centers for Disease Control was asked about the issue of Ebola waste.

"Waste from Ebola patients can be readily decontaminated," said Dr. Tom Frieden. "The virus itself is not particularly hardy. It's killed with bleach. By autoclaving. By a variety of chemicals."

But not everybody's convinced.

Citing safety concerns the State of Louisiana received a temporary restraining order blocking the shipment of incinerated Ebola waste into the state.

That means while medical waste may have found a disposal site in Galveston, what's left of Ebola patient Thomas Duncan's burned belongings remain at that Port Arthur incinerator, waiting for a place to be buried.


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