September 19, 2020, 2:09

Coronavirus’ reach from beyond the grave: Deceased body transmits COVID-19

Coronavirus’ reach from beyond the grave: Deceased body transmits COVID-19

is a phrase often inscribed on the walls of morgues and autopsy suites. Roughly translated from Latin it means, “This is the place where death rejoices in teaching the living.”

Indeed, researchers are learning new things about the novel coronavirus almost daily, the most recent lesson coming from beyond the grave.

MORE: Last responders: The grim job of medical examiners in the COVID-19 pandemic

Scientists in Thailand have reported the first known case of COVID-19 infection from a dead person. The deceased was a forensic medical professional. Forensic pathologists, also known as medical examiners, evaluate dead bodies for a living, making it highly likely — and sadly — that this person became infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 from a dead person, the Thai scientists concluded.

Editor's PicksA technician prepares COVID-19 coronavirus patient samples for testing at a laboratory in Long Island, New York, March 11, 2020.Promising new 15-minute test for coronavirus comes with caveatsA worker checks a delivery of 64 hospital beds from Hillrom to The Mount Sinai Hospital during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in New York City, U.S., March 31, 2020.What we know and don't about asymptomatic transmission and coronavirusAnesthesiologist Sylvie Thierbach of the German armed forces Bundeswehr stands in front of a bed in the intensive care unit of the Ulm Bundeswehr hospital during a media event as they prepare for the admission of patients.Anesthesiologists hailed as special heroes in fight against coronavirus

As the so-called “last responders,” of the COVID-19 pandemic, forensic pathologists have a lower chance of coming into contact with a COVID-19-infected patient compared to first responders, such as police officers and EMTs.

Because COVID-19 is primarily spread through respiratory droplets when people cough, sneeze or talk, it’s less likely to be passed on by a dead body — although now we know transmission is technically possible.

The National Association of Medical Examiners notes that the “risk of droplet transmission of COVID-19 after death is thought to be minimal,” but possible, since forensic medicine personnel regularly come in contact with corpses and biological fluids.

A makeshift morgue is set up outside Lenox Hill Hospital during the coronavirus pandemic, on April 15, 2020, in New York City.A makeshift morgue is set up outside Lenox Hill Hospital during the coronavirus pandemic, on April 15, 2020, in New York City.Cindy Ord/Getty Images

Although it’s possible to contract COVID-19 from the dead, experts say that precautions already in place will protect medical examiners and health care personnel from harm. Family members should not touch the body of a loved one who dies at home of suspected COVID-19 infection.

The professional society notes “Medical Examiners and Coroners are familiar with handling bodies that have other viral diseases, such as HIV and Hepatitis, diseases that likely pose more risk at autopsy than COVID-19. Funeral Homes routinely handle bodies with known infections of varying kinds as well.”

Most infectious agents do not survive long in the human body after death, according to the World Health Organization. However, WHO also recognizes that workers who routinely handle corpses are at risk of contracting tuberculosis, blood-borne viruses like Ebola, hepatitis and HIV, and gastrointestinal infections like E. coli and typhoid fever.

Medical examiners can never be too sure which infections a corpse may harbor, so they always take universal precautions, and treat all body fluids as infectious. This means wearing protective suits, gloves, goggles, face shields, caps and masks.

MORE: Facial hair and N95 masks: What you need to know

“I approach all my cases with universal precautions so in that regard I feel protected to a certain extent,” said Melissa Guzzetta, a medical examiner based in New Jersey. “With COVID, because it is a novel pathogen that we do not fully understand, I think the uncertainty, no matter how small, leaves people with enough anxiety that the majority of offices feel the risk of doing an autopsy outweighs the benefits” when it comes to examining the body of a person who died from COVID-19, she said.

Data regarding the exact number of COVID-19 contaminated corpses is not easy to come by since testing for COVID-19 in dead bodies is not routine. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has specific recommendations for the collection and submission of post-mortem specimens from deceased persons with known or suspected COVID-19.

What to know about coronavirus:

  • How it started and how to protect yourself: Coronavirus explained
  • What to do if you have symptoms: Coronavirus symptoms
  • Tracking the spread in the U.S. and worldwide: Coronavirus map
  • Sourse: abcnews.go.com

    Related posts

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    We use cookies in order to give you the best possible experience on our website. By continuing to use this site, you agree to our use of cookies. You can find a detailed description in our Privacy Policy.
    Accept
    Reject
    Privacy Policy