Numbers 19:11Viewing the 1769 King James Version. Click to switch to 1611 King James Version of Numbers 19:11
He that toucheth the dead body of any man shall be unclean seven days.
Numbers 6:6Viewing the 1769 King James Version. Click to switch to 1611 King James Version of Numbers 6:6
All the days that he separateth himself unto the LORD he shall come at no dead body.
The health risks of dead bodies are dangers related to the improper preparation and disposal of cadavers. While normal circumstances allow cadavers to be quickly embalmed, cremated, or buried, natural and man-made disasters can quickly overwhelm and/or interrupt the established protocols for dealing with the dead. Under such circumstances, the decomposition and putrefaction of cadavers goes unchecked, and raises a series of health, logistical, and psychological issues. After disasters with extensive loss of life due to trauma rather than disease—earthquakes, storms, human conflict, etc.—many resources are often expended on burying the dead quickly, and applying disinfectant to bodies for the specific purpose of preventing disease. This is an inappropriate use of scarce resources and manpower: the health risks from dead bodies in such cases are minimal.
According to health professionals, the fear of spread of disease by bodies killed by trauma rather than disease is not justified. Among others, Steven Rottman, director of the UCLA Center for Public Health and Disasters, said that no scientific evidence exists that bodies of disaster victims increase the risk of epidemics, adding that cadavers posed less risk of contagion than living people. In disasters involving trauma where there is competition for resources, they should be going into establishment of water supply, sanitation, shelter, warmth and hygienic food for the survivors, not digging mass graves. Spraying is a waste of disinfectant and manpower. Indiscriminate burial of corpses demoralises survivors and the lack of death certificates can cause practical problems to survivors.
The situation is quite different in the case of a health disaster such as an epidemic of certain diseases which can be spread by contact with the bodies of those who died of the disease.