Watson et al outlined the steps for handling the burial of dead bodies during and after a natural disaster. The authors are from the World Health Organization in Geneva and the recommendations are based on those of Morgan (2004).


Reassure people that dead bodies are not usually a hazard for causing epidemics after a natural disaster. Body disposal is important and needs to be done with care.



(1) Burial is preferred to cremation if a large number of bodies is involved.

(2) If the capacity for existing graveyards and crematoria is exceeded then an alternative location or facility should be provided.

(3) Every attempt should be made to identify the bodies and to inter separately.

(4) Families should be given an opportunity to conduct culturally appropriate funerals and burials according to social custom with appropriate precautions.

(5) The bottom of any grave should be >= 1.5 meters above the water table with a 0.7 meter unsaturated zone.


Precautions for people handling bodies:

(1) universal precautions for blood and body fluids

(2) proper use and disposal of personal protective equipment

(3) disinfect vehicles and equipment

(4) handwashing with soap and water

(5) use of body bags if available

(6) immediate attention to injuries during body disposal


Body decontamination and special precautions may be required if there is:

(1) cholera

(2) bacterial dysentery (shigellosis)

(3) viral hemorrhagic fever

(4) biological or chemical warfare


Other issues:

(1) Investigation for causes of death unrelated to natural disaster (shot while looting, etc)


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