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Document TitleCarcass Handling Procedures
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Office/UnitEnvironmental Health & Safety
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DOCUMENT CONTENT

Carcass Handling Procedures

Introduction

Employees that remove animal carcasses from the buildings and grounds of campus must be aware of the possible dangers that come with the handling and disposal of such animals.  They need to protect themselves and others against the spread of infectious agents such as Rabies, Lyme Disease, etc. that may be present on the carcass.  Failure to work safely could result in the spread of disease to faculty, staff or students, and even the wildlife population.  

Animal Diseases

While there are any number of diseases that come from animals, focus is primarily on the following:

  • Rabies
    • A deadly virus that infects the central nervous system of warm blooded animals including humans;
    • Spread by coming into contact with infected saliva or nerve tissue which enters your body through punctures or mucous membranes;
    • A rabid animal may act aggressively or tame, may have excessive drooling or “foaming at the mouth,” or may have mobility problems like dragging their hind end;
    • According to NYS DOT, smaller warm blooded animals are more likely to have rabies compared to large animals;
    • In dead animals, the virus may only live a few hours in hot weather or could stay alive for months in freezing weather;
  • Lyme Disease
    • A bacterium carried by ticks;
    • People may become infected after a tick bite;
    • Ticks are small spider-like insects that may be no bigger than the head of a pin;
    • Symptoms include: rash at bite site, fever, sweats, chills, fatigue, joint pain, headache, confusion and difficulty walking;
    • If found embedded in skin, remove with tick removal device or fine tipped tweezers.
  • Avian Influenza (Bird flu)
    • Disease found mainly in waterfowl such as ducks, geese and swans.  It occasionally infects domestic poultry as well; 
    • The highly contagious type of avian influenza, H5N1, is not in the United States;
    • The USA type of avian influenza is generally not considered a human health risk.
  • West Nile Virus (WNV)
    • A potentially deadly virus that may cause inflammation of the brain (meningitis), lining of the brain or spinal cord or encephalitis;
    • Transmission occurs via infected mosquitoes that contract it by biting infected birds that have WNV;
    • Is not spread from person to person;
    • Humans: Mainly asymptomatic but in 20% symptoms include: fever, headaches, body aches, mild rash and swollen lymph nodes.  Some experience severe headache, stiff neck, high fever and loss of consciousness.  In a smaller percentage of people, brain and spinal cord swelling can be seen and may be fatal.  No vaccine is available.
  • Tularemia
    • A bacterium that affects many animals especially rabbits, hares, rodents and deer.  May affect domestic cats and hamsters;
    • Generally people become infected via tick and deer fly bites, skin contact with infected animals and running over carcasses with a lawn mower (aerosol transmission) and other ways not connected to Groundskeeping.
    • Symptoms vary but may include: fever, skin ulcers (at the entry site), swollen lymph nodes, eye irritation (entry site), cough, chest pain difficulty breathing (inhalation of aerosols from carcass);
    • Treated with antibiotics.

Handling Procedures/Safe Work Practices

  • PPE: The person(s) responsible for the handling of any animal carcass must wear at a minimum: safety glasses with side shields, latex or nitrile gloves and protective clothing that covers the legs and feet. 
  • Dead? Confirm the animal is dead by prodding with a long-handled tool.  Startling an injured, apparently lifeless animal, can increase potential for contamination or personal injury. 
  • Avoid Fluids: When animal carcasses are collected for disposal, care shall be taken to contain body fluids during transport.  Small carcasses shall be placed in doubled plastic bags tying each one in the process.  A shovel or other tool may be used to lift and push the carcass into the bags.  Large carcasses (e.g. deer) should be placed on plastic sheets in the truck bed for transport to the disposal site (vs. bagging) or in leak-proof containers, or trucks with bed liners, to contain fluids.  Saw dust or wood chips may be used to help absorb bodily fluids.  Avoid throwing animals into the truck bed to minimize splash.  The risk of exposure is higher when animals have suffered extensive trauma, decay or maggot infestation.
  • Avoid Carcass Parasites: Some are visible such as fleas and ticks and others unseen like rabies, influenza virus or tularemia bacterium.    
  • Be careful not to cut yourself on teeth, claws, bone splinters or porcupine quills.
  • Avoid puncturing the carcass with the sharp edges of shovels and other tools used to remove and transfer dead animals!  Be especially careful of bloated animals which could release gasses, noxious vapors and a rapid release of bodily fluids if punctured.
  • Save Your Back: The use of low trailers or vehicles with power tailgates, lifting devices, ramps, or other devices to minimize lifting-related injuries should be used for large animals.

 Carcass and Material Disposal

  • The carcass, poly sheets and contaminated PPE and shall be properly discarded in tightly sealed double plastic bags, and placed in a dumpster.  The exception to dumpster disposal would be circumstances when a regulator asks you to retain the carcass -found in #7 below.

 Disinfection of Self

  • If animal bodily fluids contact your skin, wash the area with soap and hot water immediately.  Consult a physician if you have an injury (e.g. a bite, scratch or puncture).

 Decontamination of Equipment

  • Tools used for handling dead animals shall be disinfected after use with a 10% bleach solution (1 part household bleach and 9 parts water) with a 10 minute contact time.  Contaminated clothing should be immediately removed and disposed of or soaked in a 5% bleach solution (1 part household bleach and 19 parts water) for 10 minutes and then wash in hot water.  Note: Clothing may lose color.      
  • Reasonable effort shall be made to disinfect the vehicle and tools immediately after transport. Washing the vehicle bed with a 10% household bleach solution is required unless plastic is used to line the bed.

When to Report to Outside Agencies

It may be necessary to contact outside agencies when:

  • a person comes in contact with suspected rabid animals AND where an exposure has occurred (scratch, bite or contact with saliva or nervous tissue) – Chautauqua County Dept. of Health  (866) 604-6789
  •  Any wildlife that died by questionable causes – NYS DEC Wildlife (585) 226-5380
  • Wildlife of special interest or marked/tagged specimens (e.g. endangered/threatened animals; research study animals) regardless if the cause of death appears obvious – NYS DEC Wildlife (585) 226-5380
  • Mass mortality- Numerous dead or diseased animals (or birds) in one location should be reported to your supervisor and EH&S&S which may warrant contacting other agencies -NYS DEC Wildlife (585) 226-5380 or Chautauqua County Dept. of Health  (866) 604-6789

Training

All employees who are assigned the tasks of handling and disposal should be trained on these procedures periodically.     Training will be given within 30 days of hire and every 3 years thereafter.

Conclusion

Improper handling and disposal of carcasses and failure to clean and disinfect surfaces and equipment, including vehicles, could spread disease to people and wildlife at-large.  If employees follow safe work practices by wearing PPE, use appropriate equipment, maintain good personal hygiene and exercise good judgement, they will greatly reduce the risk of obtaining illness or disease.   Don’t forget to report all injuries to your supervisor.

References

  • NYS Department of Transportation, Safety Bulletin, “Handling Animal Carcasses/Rabies,” SB-12-8, 3/5/12
  • NYS DEC, Reporting Dead Wildlife webpage:  http://www.dec.ny.gov/animals/6957.html
  • Center for Disease Control and Prevention website
  • Chautauqua County Health Department pamphlets
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