Myths about the infectious disease threat posed by dead bodies could lead to insensitive and inappropriate treatment of victims’ bodies following the floods in Haiti, and need to be checked, according to a public health researcher who has studied the potential risks at length.
Although most of the media coverage of the disaster has been responsible and accurate, there have been some reports which wrongly state that dead bodies can cause epidemics.
‘Fear that dead bodies cause epidemics in the surviving population has led to measures such as burial in mass graves without proper identification of the victims’, comments Oliver Morgan, a researcher at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, whose paper reviewing the scientific literature to assess the infectious disease risks of dead bodies following natural disasters appeared in the Pan American Journal of Public Health recently. ‘However, in the current situation in Haiti, the risk that dead bodies pose to the public is extremely small’, he adds.
Lindsay Wright | alfa
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