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While not a pleasant topic to consider, the dead are a reality that must be prepared for nonetheless. In a bad emergency situation a significant amount of time may pass before emergency personnel are able to get in and remove any bodies. The presence of decomposing cadavers presents multiple health and psychological issues. Cadavers must be appropriately handled depending on the nature of the disaster (i.e. epidemic vs. natural disaster) to mitigate risks of spreading disease and/or demoralizing survivors. Body bags are the easiest and most effective means of respectfully and safely disposing of human remains.
The Need For Body Bags
Proper handling of dead bodies is critical in reducing the risk of spreading disease among the living. The risk of spreading disease presented by the presence of corpses after a natural disaster in which those killed died primarily due to trauma is minimal. Cadavers in this situation are less likely to spread disease than the living. However, decomposing dead bodies can contaminate ground water sources, causing gastroenteritis. Likewise, flies or other organisms that have had contact with a corpse may then contaminate food sources. Also, the fumes produced during decomposition are toxic when ingested in amounts of more than 2g per kg of body weight. For this reason it is advisable to properly dispose of all cadavers in a timely fashion.
Even if the health risk of a dead body is small, the psychological effect on survivors is a major danger. Decomposing remains are frightening and the negative impact on those survivors who see the bodies may be long-lasting and can be devastating. Body bags allow survivors to quickly and respectfully remove decomposing remains from public view, helping to lessen the psychological impact of death on a group of survivors.
The situation is very different in the case of a health related disaster or epidemic, or when a body is known to have suffered from a contagious disease prior to death. Certain diseases can be easily spread simply by contact with a diseased corpse. Tuberculosis, Hepatits B and C, and diarrheal diseases last up to two days in a dead body and other diseases such as HIV may last up to a week. Sealing bodies in body bags ensures safe handling and lessens the possibility of contamination and spread of disease.
For both health and safety as well as psychological and morale, proper handling of the dead is critical. Be sure to protect yourself and your clothing, covering up and sealing off any openings to avoid coming into direct contact with any aspect of the deceased. This can be achieved with the use of plastic trash bags and duct tape or medical tape. It is also important to treat all bodies with dignity and respect. Burial in individual graves is preferable with proper identification of the deceased if you have the resources to manage it. This type of documentation will allow the families of the dead to discover the fate of their loved one and give them some measure of closure.
Body bags are the preferred means of covering the cadaver so as to avoid contamination and make transporting and burying the body easier, more sanitary, and more dignified. A body bag offers a protective covering that not only protects those handling the body but also affords an appropriate level of dignity to the deceased.
Body bags are generally made from an exceptionably durable polyethylene woven fabric or reinforced vinyl that is designed to withstand harsh conditions. Body bags feature a zip closure and are made to contain all bodily fluids and prevent leakage and seepage. Body bags are equipped with heavy-duty carry handles to make body transport easier.