Thailand reports first fatal case of new coronavirus transmitted by deceased patient to forensic scientist, discovery that experts say is making safety at morgue and funeral home workers more difficult in the face of the global pandemic.
“This is the first report on COVID-19 infection and death among medical staff in a forensic medicine unit,” said a study in the Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine published on Sunday.
“The disinfection procedure used in operating rooms could also be applied in pathology / forensic pathology units,” wrote the authors, Won Sriwijitalai from RVT Medical Center in Bangkok and Viroj Wiwanitkit from Hainan Medical University in China. “At present, there is no data on the exact number of corpses contaminated with COVID-19 as it is not common to examine COVID-19 in corpses in Thailand. “
With nearly 1.9 million new cases of coronavirus reported Monday worldwide, Thailand has reported only 2,579 cases, although it was one of the first countries to report infections outside of China. . The death of the forensic team member was only the second reported case among medical personnel in Thailand on March 20, the authors added.
“Not only forensic pathologists, but morgue technicians and people at funeral homes need to be more careful,” said Angelique Corthals, professor of pathology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice at CUNY. “It is a real concern. “
We know very little about the survival time of the new coronavirus in corpses or if corpses can be contagious for the people who handle them.
Ebola is the best-known virus that poses a risk of infection with corpses, but guidelines from the World Health Organization also recognize a risk for workers handling corpses of hepatitis, tuberculosis and cholera.
On March 25, the head of the Thai Department of Medical Services announced that the bodies of coronavirus victims were not contagious amid reports that the temples were refusing to perform a funeral. However, some morgue workers around the world have expressed concern as hastily constructed facilities have been built to deal with excessive deaths.
“Anyone who comes into contact with a COVID19 positive body, living or dead, should use personal protective equipment to avoid exposure,” health policy expert Summer Johnson McGee told the BuzzFeed News. University of New Haven. Coroners are increasingly invited to investigate the causes of death of deceased patients who have not been tested, she noted, in an effort to regain contact with family members, neighbors and colleagues exposed.
“Autopsies and subsequent investigations pose real risks for coroners to acquire COVID-19,” she said.
As efforts intensify for temporary mass burials for victims and temporary mortuaries, medical personnel handling the remains should be included in the priorities for protective equipment, Corthals said.
“We have to take care of the people who take care of the dead.”