Myanmar’s illegal trade in medical waste poses massive infection risk

Myanmar Now investigation finds waste collectors selling used syringes and intravenous drips to be made into household goods.

Two garbage disposal workers spent half an hour rummaging through mounds of medical waste with their bare hands on a recent morning outside the Bahosi Hospital in Yangon.

Dressed in orange uniforms issued by the Yangon City Development Committee (YCDC) they plucked blood-stained intravenous drip tubes and used syringes from red trash bags and tossed them into yellow ones.

These bags were destined for neighbourhoods in Yangon’s outskirts, where residents process and clean the high-grade plastic before selling it on to be made into household goods.

Even at the best of times, this illegal practice risks spreading diseases like hepatitis, HIV, dysentery and respiratory tract infections. But with Myanmar’s count of confirmed coronavirus cases rising, it raises the prospect that waste from patients infected with the highly contagious new virus could also be mishandled.

There is not yet enough research into the novel coronavirus to say exactly how much it could spread via medical waste, said Dr Meru Sheel, an expert on the spread of infectious diseases at the Australian National University.

“What we do know is the virus can survive on surfaces for varying amounts of time. Depending on the material, but it does survive,” she told Myanmar Now.

Research published last month by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in the US found the virus can persist on plastic and stainless steel for up to three days.

Not sure coronavirus is the problem here, when compared with HIV, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C etc, However, this is a truly horrendous situation for those involved in this filthy trade, and others who may be exposed to non-sterile medical waste items illicitly returned to use.
A tragedy for Myanmar, and well done to Myanmar Now for reporting this terrible situation.

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