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Sunday, June 6, 2010

Precautions and Considerations When Dealing With The Dead

Sudden and long term disasters can bring about a lot of change.  And some of that change is the loss of friends and loved ones.  As unappealing as this subject may be, recently, there has been multiple accounts of natural disasters where large amounts of individuals perished.  The government, scrambling to devise a plan of action to deal with this issue left the corpses to rot in the streets as the victims who escaped death looked on.  The longer a body is exposed to the elements, the faster it decomposes.
To better educate the population, here are some tips that were gathered from the Center For Disease Control and other  educational resources for how to properly deal with ridding of dead bodies.
Human remains may contain blood-borne viruses such as hepatitis viruses and HIV, and bacteria that cause diarrheal diseases, such as shigella and salmonella. These viruses and bacteria do not pose a risk to someone walking nearby, nor do they cause significant environmental contamination.
Bacteria and viruses from human remains in flood water are a minor part of the overall contamination that can include uncontrolled sewerage, a variety of soil and water organisms, and household and industrial chemicals. There are no additional practices or precautions for flood water related to human remains, beyond what is normally required for safe food and drinking water, standard hygiene and first aid.
However, for people who must directly handle remains, such as recovery personnel, or persons identifying remains or preparing the remains for burial or cremation, there can be a risk of exposure to such viruses or bacteria.

Workers who handle human remains should use the following precautions:

  • Protect your face from splashes of body fluids and fecal material. You can use a plastic face-shield or a combination of eye protection (indirectly vented safety goggles are a good choice if available; safety glasses will only provide limited protection) and a surgical mask. In extreme situations, a cloth tied over the nose and mouth can be used to block splashes.
  • Protect your hands from direct contact with body fluids, and also from cuts, puncture wounds, or other injuries that break the skin that might be caused by sharp environmental debris or bone fragments. A combination of a cut-proof inner layer glove and a latex or similar outer layer is preferable. Footwear should similarly protect against sharp debris.
  • Maintain hand hygiene to prevent transmission of diarrheal and other diseases from fecal materials on your hands. Wash your hands with soap and water or with an alcohol-based hand cleaner immediately after you remove your gloves.
  • Give prompt care–including immediate cleansing with soap and clean water, and a tetanus booster if indicated–to any wounds sustained during work with human remains.
  • In addition to guarding physical safety, participate in available programs to provide psychological and emotional support for workers handling human remains. Agencies coordinating the management of human remains are encouraged to develop programs providing psychological and emotional support and care for workers during and after recovery activities.
Source: Center For Disease Control

Temporary to Long Term Disposal of Bodies

This resource is very informative on the topic of disposing of bodies, and should be printed out and put into one’s G.O.O.D Manual.  This resource can provide answers to such questions as how far to bury a body away from water, what type of diseases and bacterial infections one could acquire when handling a body, and how to temporarily store the body before a permanent burial.
In a disaster situation where there are mass amounts of dead bodies, blood-borne viruses and diseases can begin occurring if the corpses are not properly disposed of.  Considering that many of us have no idea what is involved when burying a body, or the risks that it could involve; it would be beneficial to have some kind of an idea of how to deal with this before hand.