New challenge for hospitals dealing with Ebola

A new challenge is emerging for hospitals already concerned about dealing with potential cases of Ebola.

They now have to determine what to do with the staggering amount of contaminated medical waste an Ebola patient generates, reports CBS News Ben Tracy.

Each potential patient leaves about eight 55-gallon barrels of hazardous material each day.

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That's because their bodily fluids and everything they come in contact with, from hazmat suits to sheets, mattresses, cups and plates, must be disposed of.

At a recent congressional hearing, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said there are guidelines to deal with this waste.

"Waste from Ebola patients can be readily decontaminated," CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden said. "The virus itself is not particularly hearty. It's killed by bleach, by a variety of chemicals."

The medical waste can be sterilized or burned but many states do not use medical incinerators because of air pollution concerns.

The California Hospital Association sent a letter to Senator Barbara Boxer warning that "storage, transportation and disposal of this waste will be a major problem."

"Typically when you are a patient in the hospital you generate a little bit of waste, and we know how to deal with that," California Hospital Associate vice president Jan Emerson said. "But because of the volume and highly contagious nature, those two factors combined, it does present some new learnings as we go along here."

And it's not just hospitals.

One-hundred forty 55-gallon drums of contaminated material were removed from the Dallas apartment where Thomas Eric Duncan had been staying.

He later died of Ebola and his waste was incinerated at a facility in Galveston, Texas.