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Cemetery in Monrovia

Burial 

In all societies, funerals are an important social and community ritual. However, in the case of diseases like Lassa fever and Ebola virus disease funerals can also be points of disease transmission. In most of the countries where Lassa fever cases occurs the preparation of corpses is as important as the burial itself, since these rituals allow the dead person to rejoin their ancestors and move successfully into the next life. It is usually close family and community members who prepare the corpse for burial. Safe and dignified burials are needed so that family members are not put at risk but important social obligations can be carried out.  Because the safety precautions involved in the preparation of corpses who have died from Lassa disease is challenging, such burials usually have to be carried out by people who are strangers to the family of the dead person. Dignified burial requires understanding the needs of the various actors involved,including burial teams, relatives and community members so that those managing the burial can apply guidelines (NCDC, WHO) to prevent secondary transmissions, whilst also allowing for family members wishes to be observed.

Social sciences can provide information about local burial practices to ensure that outbreak control burial procedures are locally acceptable and therefore more effective. Most of the literature on this topic relates to the Ebola virus epidemic. However, as the two diseases require similar precautions at the point of burial, these insights are relevant to the case of Lassa fever.

Resources

Social consequences of Ebola containment measures in Liberia

This study of quarantine during the Ebola epidemic in Liberia also shows that state-enforced quarantine, with a mandatory prohibition of movement, raised condemnation, strengthened stigmatization and created serious socio-economic distress.

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Improving burial practices and cemetery management during an Ebola virus disease epidemic — Sierra Leone, 2014

This piece is a summary of an assessment conducted in Sierra Leone on the acceptability of safe, nontraditional burial practices and cemetery management during the Ebola Outbreak. Both measures aimed the control of the virus transmission. Some of the findings were: scarce burial teams, miscoordination among Ebola response bodies, lack of systematic procedures for testing and reporting results on dead bodies from Laboratories, inadequate cementerie space, no acceptance of safe burial practices by communities. These finding informed a standard operating procedure (SOP) for safe, dignified medical burials.

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Burials in times of Ebola: Do's and don'ts - issues of acceptability

This short guide was elaborated by the authors at the beginning of the Ebola Virus disease outbreak in May 2014 in Gueckedou base on a fieldwork in the area. It compiles the wishes collected from villages where people died from Ebola virus diseases.

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Treating corpses like bundles of firewood. On the social production of indifference in the time of Ebola (Guinea)

The authors reflect on the impacts of the declaration of global emergency on the way dead bodies were treated during the Ebola virus disease epidemic in Guinea: focusing on problems related to anonymous graves and the impossibility of organizing burial ceremonies.

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Community-centered responses to Ebola in urban Liberia: The view from below

The article presents information on community-based epidemic control priorities and identifies innovative local strategies for containing EVD in Liberia. The text also offers some suggestions from participants like the integration of families in the surveillance system and the declaration of National Memorial Day among others.

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