Jeg har skrevet om dette før, da i forbindelse med Tsunamien i 2004 og da på min private mailingliste (dette var før denne bloggen oppstod), men det kan med fordel gjentas:
Det er en myte at mengder av døde menneskekropper etter en katastrofe medfører stor risiko for epidemier, men journalister ser aldri ut til å sjekke opp i fakta før de gang på gang sprer denne feilaktige påstanden. Faktum er at eventuelle farlige bakterier dør få timer etter at vertskroppen har dødd. Det er derfor svært lite sannsynlig at døde kropper sprer noen form for smitte via drikkevann eller luft.
Contrary to popular belief, dead bodies left from natural disasters such as the China earthquake and Myanmar cyclone are not a source of disease or a health threat to survivors, the World Health Organization said Friday.
«There is a widespread and erroneous belief that dead bodies are a source of disease and therefore a threat to public health. This is untrue,» [Arturo Pesigan, WHO’s Western Pacific Region’s headquarters in Manila] said.
«There has never been a documented case of a post-natural-disaster epidemic that could be traced to dead bodies,» said the doctor, who helps oversee emergency and humanitarian services in the region.
He said those killed by disasters were generally healthy at the time of their death, and were unlikely to be a source of infection to others.
«The micro-organisms responsible for the decomposition of bodies are not capable of causing disease in living people,» the WHO technical officer said.
«Most infectious agents of public health concern that may be present at the time of death will themselves die within hours of the person dying. (AFP)
Denne myten har spesielt en svært negativ konsekvens: Massegraver. I frykt for epidemier tyr man ofte til massegraver for å få bort likene snarest mulig. Dette forhindrer identifisering av ofre, noe som igjen er en stor belastning for familiene til de døde.
The major threats after a disaster come from dirty water and unsafe food and lack of sanitation facilities. The latter creates more contaminated water and unsafe food. When people start getting diarrheal disease the whole thing becomes a terrible positive feedback loop. The idea that dead bodies have to be buried quickly or doused in disinfectant comes from a primal fear that seems almost impossible to eradicate. Some of the most persistent and worst purveyors of this idea are journalists who use it to portray the urgency of a situation because they believe it themselves and understand that it is an image that readers can connect to. Unfortunately it causes authorities and members of the public to spend precious resources to do things that aren’t necessary, paying an opportunity cost by not doing things that are.
WHO sine retningslinjer sier derfor:
- Mass graves should never be used for burying disaster victims
- Under no circumstances should mass cremation of bodies take place when this goes against the cultural and religious practices of the affected population. The population will be reassured and can better bear the pain from the loss of loved ones when they follow their beliefs and carry out religious rituals, and know that there is a possibility of identifying and recovering the bodies.
- It is necessary to exhaust every effort to identify the bodies, and as a last resort bury unidentified corpses in individual niches or graves. This is a basic human right of surviving family members.