Thursday, 27 June 2013

Health risks from dead bodies are negligible

The health risks of dead bodies are dangers related to the improper preparation and disposal of cadavers.

As per WHO In situations where there are large numbers of deaths following a disaster dead or decayed human bodies do not generally create a serious health hazard, unless they are polluting sources of drinking-water with faecal matter, or are infected with communicable diseases.  In most smaller or less acute emergency situations therefore, families may carry out all the necessary activities following a death, where this is customary practice
While normal circumstances allow cadavers to be quickly embalmed, cremated, or buried, natural and man-made disasters can quickly overwhelm and/or interrupt the established protocols for dealing with the dead resulting in decomposition and putrefaction of cadavers.
The public concern has been health, logistical, and psychological issues.
In panic people either bury the dead quickly or apply disinfectant to bodies for the specific purpose of preventing disease.  Both have no scientific basis.
In a disaster the following may happen
a.       The body gets buried naturally with no ill consequence
b.      The body gets flown in water with no consequences
c.       The body gets decomposed and produces foul smell. Need simple customs and ritual filled cremation.
d.      Vultures start eating the body as natural air burial again of no health consequence.
Health Risks are minimal
1.  Microorganisms involved in the decay process (putrefaction) are not pathogenic.
2.  The health risks from dead bodies in such cases are minimal. Unless the person was suffering from a  disease the fear of spread of disease by bodies killed by trauma is not justified.
3.  No scientific evidence exists that bodies of disaster victims increase the risk of epidemics AND cadavers posed less risk of contagion than living people.
4.  The priority should be going into establishment of water supply, sanitation, shelter, warmth and hygienic food for the survivors, not digging mass graves.
5.  Spraying is a waste of disinfectant and manpower.
6.  Indiscriminate burial of corpses can demoralize survivors.
7.  Lack of death certificates can cause future practical problems to survivors.
8.  Religious and cultural practices should not be bypassed.
9.  Survivors present a much more important reservoir for disease [than cadavers]. Real risk is contamination of water supplies by unburied bodies, burial sites, or temporary storage sites may result in the spread of gastroenteritis from normal intestinal contents.
10.        Only corpses who died from certain contagious diseases do, indeed, spread disease, such as the case with smallpox and the 1918 flu.
11.        There is little evidence of microbiological contamination of groundwater from burial.
12.        Where dead bodies have contaminated water supplies, gastroenteritis has been the most notable problem, although communities will rarely use a water supply where they know it to be contaminated by dead bodies.
13.        To those in close contact with the dead, such as rescue workers, there is a health risk from chronic infectious diseases which those killed may have been suffering from and which spread by direct contact, including hepatitis B and hepatitis C, HIV, enteric intestinal pathogens, tuberculosis, cholera and others.
14.        The substances cadaverine and putrescine are produced during the decomposition of animal (including human) bodies, and both give off a foul odor. They are toxic only if massive doses are ingested (2 g per kg of body weight of pure putrescine in rats, a larger dose for cadaverine), causing adverse effects.
15.        Maggots in decomposed bodies also do not carry immediate health risk.

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