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Disposal of Anthrax Carcasses and Contaminated Materials

This page is part of the Guidance Document Repository (GDR).

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Disposal by incineration is preferred; however, deep burial is also an acceptable method. There may be some jurisdictional restrictions on incineration or deep burial.

Evaluate each animal before disposal, and ensure that all body openings are plugged with an absorbent material (e.g. non-perforated paper towel, cloths, etc.) before a carcass is moved.

Note: It is important to record the land location (e.g. global positioning system [GPS] coordinates) for all burn and burial sites.

Note: Research has shown that using lime or other calcium products on carcasses or contaminated ground is contraindicated. Calcium has been shown to protect, rather than destroy, anthrax spores. AVOID USING LIME or other calcium products on carcasses or contaminated ground.

A. Prevent Escape of Bloody Exudates from the Carcass

Note: AVOID performing an autopsy when anthrax is being considered:

  1. Ensure that all body openings (e.g. anus, mouth, nose, etc.) are plugged with an absorbent material (e.g. non-perforated paper towel, cloths, etc.) to prevent leakage of exudates.
  2. Ensure that the entire head is covered with a heavy duty plastic bag that is secured at the neck, behind the ears, and across the poll with duct tape, or tied with rope or twine.

Move the carcass on a conveyance that can be destroyed with the carcass or easily cleaned and disinfected (e.g. wood pallet, etc.).

AVOID USING LIME or other calcium products on carcasses or contaminated ground.

B. Protect Carcasses until their Disposal

To prevent scavenging and spreading of spores by insects, birds, or mammals, once all body openings are plugged and the head securely covered, cover the carcass with a tarp, heavy plastic, or other appropriate material. Weigh down the edges of the covering to prevent removal by wind or predators.

The natural decomposition of a carcass destroys most of the vegetative anthrax organisms within 48 to 72 hours in warm weather conditions. These carcasses pose a smaller risk of environmental anthrax contamination during subsequent handling for disposal. The carcass, however, may be friable, and thus may easily pull apart, posing other difficulties in handling.

C. Incineration/Burning C Pyre or Pit

The following guidelines provide information on evaluating disposal efforts and in confirming complete incineration.

The goal is to destroy as many spores as possible, thereby decreasing environmental anthrax contamination. A complete burn should be achieved. The carcass should be completely reduced to ash. An effective burn primarily leaves ash and bits of bone, with minimal fly attraction to the site.

General considerations:

1. Pyre System:

a) Wood

Note: Approximately one cord of wood (4' x 4' x 8' or 128 cubic feet; 1.2 x 1.2 x 2.4 or 3.4m3) is required per 1000 lbs (~ 500 kg) of carcass to be incinerated.

b) Straw

Note: Flax bales burn at a very high temperature and are well-suited for burning carcasses; however, when used as the sole fuel, they may burn too fast for effective incineration of the carcass. Using flax bales in the centre of the pyre surrounded by other straw bales will burn hot enough for complete carcass incineration. When other types of straw bales are used as the sole fuel source, more accelerant will be required.

Note: An effective burn primarily leaves ash and bits of bone with minimal fly attraction to the site.

Soak the ashes with acceptable disinfectant. AVOID USING LIME or other calcium products.

Decontaminate any contaminated ground that is associated with the carcass disposal by using a torch and/or soaking with acceptable disinfectant. AVOID USING LIME or other calcium products.

2. Burn Pits/Trenches

The use of a pit facilitates the burial of ashes and prevents fire from spreading. Sloped sides on the pit facilitate airflow to the fire.

Burn pit/trench considerations:

Note: It will be necessary to decontaminate the ground where the carcass lay, as well as the equipment, tools, etc. used in handling the carcass and any contaminated materials. Decontamination is carried out by burning the area, using a propane torch and/or soaking with an acceptable disinfectant. AVOID USING LIME or other calcium products.

In all cases, assess the burn site to ensure that there was adequate incineration of the carcass.

D. Burial

If incineration is not feasible or cannot take place immediately, deep burial may be a viable option.

Note: The location of burial sites, using GPS or other mapping methods, should be recorded by those involved, and kept indefinitely.

Burial considerations:

E. Rendering

Moving infected carcasses to rendering facilities poses too great a risk of spreading disease; therefore, rendering anthrax-contaminated carcasses is contraindicated. Rendering is not a recommended method of disposal of carcasses (in whole or part).

F. Delayed Disposal C Special Circumstances

Under specific environmental conditions – for instance, prolonged rain; carcass inaccessibility (e.g. standing water, heavy bush); or logistical problems (e.g. lack of proper equipment, manpower etc.) – the prompt disposal of infected carcasses may be impossible. In these circumstances, to prevent or minimize anthrax environmental contamination, assess the situation to decide on an appropriate course of action within a realistic timeline for disposal. Cover the carcass and the surrounding area with disinfectants, such as 10% formalin or 5% solution of lye (sodium hydroxide), and repeated as needed. Protecting the carcass from scavenging is also indicated. AVOID USING LIME or other calcium products.

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