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Epidemiol Infect. Feb 1998; 120(1): 7–15.
PMCID: PMC2809343

Funerals during the 1994 cholera epidemic in Guinea-Bissau, West Africa: the need for disinfection of bodies of persons dying of cholera.


The 1994 cholera epidemic in Guinea-Bissau resulted in 15,878 reported cases and 306 deaths. Early in the epidemic, although the health ministry mandated that the bodies of persons dying of cholera be disinfected, outbreaks occurred in several villages following funerals in the region of Biombo. To determine the influence of disinfection and funeral activities on cholera transmission, we analysed surveillance data and conducted a case-control study following a funeral. The attack rate during the week following funerals was higher in villages where bodies were not disinfected (risk ratio = 2.6, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.9-3.8). Cholera was strongly associated with eating at a funeral with a non-disinfected corpse (odds ratio [OR] = 14.5, 95% CI 0.9-786) and with touching (i.e., transporting, washing) the body (OR = 36.2, 95% CI 2.6-1769). During cholera epidemics, in addition to other cholera prevention activities, health officials should inform community leaders about the risk of cholera transmission during funerals, meals should not be served at funerals, and bodies of persons dying of cholera should be disinfected.

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