Care of Body after Death

Some bacteria and viruses can still be active in the body after death. This means that if any infected body fluids come into contact with a person and find a way to enter their body, such as through a break in the skin or the mouth or nasal cavity, then there is the possibility of causing infection in that person. 

For most bloodborne diseases (like hepatitis C or HIV), this risk is extremely small as the viruses are quite fragile, and blood-carrying infectious particles must quickly enter the bloodstream before they can cause infection. The risk of transmitting diseases can be almost entirely eliminated by following the standard precautions for infection control. 

Standard precautions include practices like wearing gloves and other protective clothing and carefully managing waste

All used materials contaminated with blood MUST be disposed of in the clinical waste bin

Special care is needed if touching a body that is known, or is reasonably suspected, to have been infected with one or more of the following 'List A' or 'List B' diseases.

List 'A' Diseases

This is a group of diseases that should create extra caution and care when dealing with bodies. There is a low risk of transmission after death, which is manageable with standard precautions.

Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD)

Hepatitis C

Human immunodeficiency virus infection (HIV)

List 'B' Diseases

There are some diseases that are highly infectious and easily transmitted between living people. Most of these diseases do not occur in New Zealand or Australia. If a case were to occur, it would most likely have been contracted by the person while they were staying in an overseas country.

In addition to standard precautions, special precautions may be required for handling a body that is known or reasonably suspected of having been infected with one or more of the following diseases listed.

Diseases in List B have the potential for airborne transmission. Infective particles could be inhaled by a person in close contact with the body, particularly when air is expelled from the lungs during physical care.




Respiratory anthrax



Any viral haemorrhagic fever (including Lassa Marburg, Ebola, and Congo-Crimean fevers)

If there is reason to believe that a body is infected with a List B disease, the bag or wrapping used for the body and any bag or wrapping used to replace that bag or wrapping must be clearly and indelibly marked with the words "INFECTIOUS DISEASE - LIST 'B' - HANDLE WITH CARE".

The person responsible for complying with this clause depends on the body's location

a) If the body is at a facility, the Manager/Nurse Manager is responsible

b) If the body is at any other premises or place, the funeral director or other person removing the body is responsible

A body infected or suspected of being infected with a 'List B' disease must not be available for viewing.

To minimise the risk of transmission of any infection in the deceased person, standard precautions are to be followed as a minimum requirement.

If the deceased resident has a known infectious disease, refer to public health guidance or consult the funeral director for any special requirements regarding body handling.