Dead bodies of COVID-19 patients may still be contagious


In the recent reports, it is seen that people who died from CVOID-19 could be contagious. In Bangkok, Thailand, a forensic practitioner worked on a deceased patient and he caught coronavirus, according to the report published online on 11th April as a preprint in the Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine. The same forensic practitioner died later due to the COVID-19 infection which showed the first case of COVID-19 infection in forensic health personnel as written by the researchers in a report. On March 19th, this report was written and at that time only 272 people were dead including the nurse assistant and forensic practitioners who tested positive for COVID-19. Most of the cases which were reported in Thailand were mostly imported and none of them were due to the community spread according to the researchers. It is therefore unlikely that the forensic practitioner got infected with the virus outside the workplace or from the patient admitted at the hospital.


According to the report by the researchers, it is of low chance that the forensic medicine professionals come in contact with the COVID-19 patients but they can come into contact with the virus through corpses or biological samples from the infected patients. According to Dr. Otto Yang who is the professor in the Department of Medicine and Department of Microbiology and Immunology and Molecular Genetics at David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, he said that he is not surprised by the recently deceased patient being contagious. In an email for Live Science, Yang told that absolutely, it’s correct that the dead body of COVID-19 infected patient would be contagious at least for a few hours if not days. The coronavirus can be present in the respiratory secretions and potentially reproducing within the living lung cells of the dead patients which have not been dead yet.

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The longevity of COVID-19 within the body of the patient can be complicated leading to issues for people working in the funeral industry. After these reports were published, the temples in Thailand refused to perform any funeral services of COVID-19 infected patients and then the head of Thailand’s Department of Medical Services incorrectly announced on 25th march that COVID-19 infection is non-contagious within the dead bodies according to Buzz feed news. Dr Somsak Akhasilp who is the director general of the Department of Medical Sciences referred to the 70-year old man who was dead on Monday evening after 50 days of battling with the virus. He further mentioned to avoid any fear in the temples that the virus becomes dead once the host is dead and there is no chance of transmission of the disease.

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It’s still unclear that for how long the virus remains viable within the dead bodies of the infected patients. In the light of the recent findings and reports, it is advised to the forensic scientists that they should examine the remains of COVID-19 infected patients while following immediate precautions such as protective gear, including gloves, protective suit, cap, mask, and goggles as mentioned in the reports. They further added that the disinfection protocol used within the operating rooms should be followed similarly within the pathology/ forensic units as well.

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According to WHO (World Health Organization), the pathogens in the usual state that kill people do not survive for a longer period to spread to others once the infected patient is dead. The human remains do pose a substantial risk for health in a few special cases like patients who died due to hemorrhagic fever, Ebola or cholera, according to WHO. There are other illnesses as well which are still contagious from the human remains like blood-borne viruses such as HIV, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, tuberculosis, and gastrointestinal infections such as Hepatitis A, Salmonella infections, E.coli and typhoid fever according to WHO.

Sources : Live Science, Science Direct, Live Science, Buzzfeed, World Health Organization, Live Science


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