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According to WHO and the Red Cross, corpses do not pose a particular health risk.

Contrary to deeply held belief, the remains of disaster victims do not pose a particular health risk, the Red Cross and WHO remind. However, a precaution is necessary: ​​do not leave the corpse near drinking water sources to avoid possible contamination with feces. In fact, much of the health risk comes from survivors who can spread disease, emergency response experts insist.

As in Libya, which was hit by deadly floods, or Morocco, which was rocked by a massive earthquake, natural disasters can result in thousands of casualties. Buried in rubble, littering ruins, or floating on water, they are a gruesome sight that often prompts the remains to be buried as quickly as possible.

Survivors are more at risk of spread

But mistreating the dead too quickly can lead to mental anguish and legal problems for the victims’ loved ones.

According to the WHO and the Red Cross, generally the remains of victims of a natural disaster or conflict do not cause epidemics because people die from trauma, drowning or burns and therefore do not usually carry disease. .

This is, of course, different from deaths caused by highly infectious diseases such as cholera, Ebola or Marburg virus disease, or when a natural disaster occurs in a region where one of these diseases is endemic.

“Survivors of events such as natural disasters are more likely to spread disease than corpses,” insists Pierre Guomar, head of the ICRC’s medico-legal unit.

Water precautions must also be taken. The feces excreted by the dead can become contaminated and contaminate the water. “The main cause of risk is not the dead body, but everything that is in the water,” such as dirt and chemicals, explains WHO spokeswoman Margaret Harris.

No hasty burials

The widespread myth of epidemics caused by remains “often causes people to rush to bury the dead and increases the risk of people going missing, leaving loved ones to suffer for years,” laments Bilal Sabloo, an ICRC health adviser. Africa.

The pressure created by these rumors in particular can encourage measures such as collective burials to be carried out in a hasty and disrespectful manner.

“We urge authorities in communities affected by the tragedy not to rush into mass burials or cremations,” asks Kazunobu Kojima, biosecurity officer for the WHO’s health emergencies program.

WHO and the Red Cross recommend that bodies be identified and buried in clearly marked individual graves. It is also important to document and map the burial site to ensure traceability.

Source: Le Parisien

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