Scientists Confirm First Case of Coronavirus Transmission From a Dead Body, Reveals Study
A passenger, wearing protective gear as a preventive measure against the spread of the COVID-19 novel coronavirus, rides a commuter boat on the Chao Phraya river in Bangkok. (Image: AFP)
Bangkok: Thailand recorded first incident of the deadly coronavirus being transmitted from a dead body to a medical professional, a development that exposes crematorium workers to greater risks during the pandemic.
The finding was reported by BuzzFeed News, citing the Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine study, which was released on Sunday.
“This is the first report on Covid-19 infection and death among medical personnel in a Forensic Medicine unit,” revealed the study. The authors of the study – Won Sriwijitalai of Bangkok’s RVT Medical Center and Viroj from China’s Wiwanitkit of Hainan Medical University – said that forensic medicine personnel have a lesser chance of coming into contact with infected patients. But added that there is a probability that they can come in contact with ‘biological samples and corpses.’
However, still not much is known about how long the novel coronavirus can live in dead bodies.
“Anyone coming into contact with a Covid-19 positive body, alive or dead, should be using personal protective equipment to prevent exposure,” health policy expert Summer Johnson McGee of the University of New Haven told BuzzFeed News. Autopsies and the ensuing investigations pose real risks for coroners to get infected by Covid-19, she added.
Given how there is a surge in mass burials of the deceased, medical professionals managing the remains of the patients need to be provided with protective equipment, said Angelique Corthals, a professor of pathology at CUNY's John Jay College of Criminal Justice.
“We need to take care of the people who take care of the dead,” Corthals added.
Thailand on Tuesday reported 34 fresh coronavirus cases and the death of a 52-year-old female bus driver in Bangkok, reported Reuters. Thailand has so far recorded 2,613 cases and 41 deaths since the outbreak intensified in January. About 1,405 patients have recovered and returned to their homes.
After news of temples denying to carry out funeral services emerged, the head of Thailand’s Department of Medical Services had on March 25, said that the corpses of coronavirus patients were not contagious. But a few morgue workers across the world had raised alarm as more and more hurriedly constructed facilities were being set up to manage excessive deaths, the BuzzFeed News report added.
Ebola, which kills around half of the patients who contract the illness, is a virus known to present transmission risks from dead bodies. Guidelines issued by the World Health Organization also acknowledge that the workers who deal with dead bodies of victims of diseases like hepatitis, tuberculosis, and cholera are also prone to risks.