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Volume 13, Number 1—January 2007
Perspective

Epidemics after Natural Disasters

John T. Watson*Comments to Author , Michelle Gayer*, and Maire A. Connolly*
Author affiliations: *World Health Organization, Geneva, Switzerland;

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Table

Principles for management of dead bodies*

• Mass management of dead bodies is often based on the false belief that they represent an epidemic hazard if not buried or burned immediately.
• Burial is preferable to cremation in mass casualty situations.
• Every effort should be made to identify the bodies. Mass burial should be avoided if at all possible.
• Families should have the opportunity (and access to materials) to conduct culturally appropriate funerals and burials according to social custom.
• Where existing facilities such as graveyards or crematoria are inadequate, alternative locations or facilities should be provided.
• For workers routinely handling bodies, ensure
  • Universal precautions for blood and body fluids
  • Use and correct disposal of gloves
  • Use of body bags if available
  • Hand-washing with soap after handling bodies and before eating
  • Disinfection of vehicles and equipment
  • Bodies do not need disinfection before disposal (except in cases of cholera, shigellosis, or hemorrhagic fever)
  • Bottom of any grave is >1.5 m above the water table, with a 0.7-m unsaturated zone

*Adapted from Morgan (3).

Main Article

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The conclusions, findings, and opinions expressed by authors contributing to this journal do not necessarily reflect the official position of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Public Health Service, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or the authors' affiliated institutions. Use of trade names is for identification only and does not imply endorsement by any of the groups named above.
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