Contributed by Sara Sasse, Hatrack
Depends on the disease. Some propagate better in wet conditions, some in dry.
The conflict in some of the reports can be attributed in part to imprecise terminology in the articles, IMO. That is, the Pan American Health Organization probably more accurately "issued a statement declaring there was no danger of corpses contaminating water or soil because [the types of] bacteria and viruses [which cause infectious disease epidemics] cannot survive in dead bodies."
It is more difficult to reconcile the direct quotation of Dr. Sathish Amarnath, the microbiologist heading the infection control department at Manipal Hospital in Bangalore: "There is a very high risk of epidemics breaking out in all these places …. Decaying bodies are bacteria factories. The bodies must be quickly disposed of." He may have been misquoted, or he may have misunderstood the question, or he may just have been misinformed (although that would seem odd for an infection control expert for that area). However, the information from the PAHO is what we are standardly taught in medical school, is consistent with the conversations about Doctors Without Borders that I’ve had with infectious disease experts, and is part of the WHO consensus statement on natural disasters, including those in tropical climates.