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What to do with the Dead if a Flu Outbreak Happens?

re that the administration had helped to organize a two-day conference at Fort Monroe in Virginia in March with funeral directors, public health experts medical examiners and casket makers. Some of the ideas being considered are virtual funerals, backyard burials, and storing bodies at ice hockey rinks.

'Virtual funerals' broadcast over closed-circuit television or the Internet would be advised, said Nesler, who ran the Fort Monroe conference. 'The very worst thing you can do during an epidemic is have large gatherings of people' such as memorial services, he said.

Of course smaller problems like fuel shortages during this time would mean added complications transporting bodies and keeping refrigerated trucks cool. With funeral operators and medical examiners at the bottom of White House’s priority list for medicine and vaccine most of the burden of dealing with the dead would probably fall to local communities and the states.

Chief medical examiner, Marcella Fierro, for Virginia has said that the state is trying to help now by developing software systems for clerical tasks such as keeping track of the dead and contacting next of kin.

According to Michael Osterholm, head of the Center for Infectious Disease Research & Policy at the University of Minnesota, ‘If the next pandemic strikes with the same ferocity as the 1918 flu, even the most thorough planning will not prepare people for the emotional toll of such widespread death.’

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