Scientists reported the first fatal case of coronavirus disease transmission from a dead patient to a forensic medicine professional in Thailand. The incident prompted the scientists to call on added safety measures for morgue and funeral home workers amid the pandemic COVID-19 crisis.
“According to our best knowledge, this is the first report on COVID-19 infection and death among medical personnel in a Forensic Medicine unit,” said a Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine study released on April 11.
According to Won Sriwijitalai of the RVT Medical Center in Bangkok and Viroj Wiwanitkit of China’s Hainan Medical University, “there is low chance of forensic medicine professionals coming into contact with infected patients, but they can have contact with biological samples and corpses.”
“The disinfection procedure used in operation rooms might be applied in pathology/forensic units, too,” they added. “At present, there is no data on the exact number of COVID-19 contaminated corpses since it is not a routine practice to examine for COVID-19 in dead bodies in Thailand.”
“Nevertheless, infection control and universal precautions are necessary. Forensic professionals have to wear protective devices, including a protective suit, gloves, goggles, cap, and mask,” they added.
The authors also urged hospitals tp apply the same disinfection procedure used in operating rooms to be used in pathology or forensic units too.
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Coronavirus transmission from dead body to human in Thailand
“Contrary to common belief, there is no evidence that corpses pose a risk of epidemic disease after a natural disaster. Most agents do not survive long in the human body after death,” said the World Health Organization’s guidelines on risks posed by dead bodies after disasters.
However, Public Health England has advised medical staff working with bodies of COVID-19 patients that there is a risk.
“Those handling bodies should be aware that there is likely to be a continuing risk of infection from the body fluids and tissues of cases where coronavirus (SARS-CoV2) infection is identified,” the UK’s chief healthcare advisory body said on March 31.
A technical report from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control said, “there is no evidence so far of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 through the handling of bodies of deceased persons.”
But there is still a “potential risk of transmission related to the handling of bodies of deceased persons with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 though considered low. The transmission could be related to direct contact with human remains or bodily fluids where the virus is present and direct contact with contaminated fomites,” it said.