Public health officials in countries hit by last month's tsunami are rapidly burying victims in mass graves to prevent disease outbreaks. But this is an unnecessary practice according to a report released last year.
The report, produced by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) in September 2004, says mass burial following natural disasters should be avoided. It says it is a myth that human corpses pose a higher risk of diseases such as cholera, because most harmful bacteria and viruses die soon after human death as the body temperature falls.
According to PAHO, mass burials also reduce the likelihood of identifying victims — who should be buried instead in a way that allows later exhumation and a dignified funeral. It recommends that each body is carefully recorded, tagged and put into an individual body bag.