Coronavirus may have spread from dead body: report

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A forensic medicine professional who died from the coronavirus in Thailand is believed to be the first reported person to catch COVID-19 from a dead body, according to a report on Tuesday.

A letter published in the Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine back on March 20 detailed how a forensic practitioner working in Bangkok and a nurse assistant were the only two COVID-19 infections involving medical professionals in Thailand at the time.

Won Sriwijitalai of Bangkok's RVT Medical Center and Viroj Wiwanitkit of DY Patil University wrote in the letter that at the time most cases in Thailand were imported and local community spread was limited.

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Workers wearing personal protective equipment bury bodies in a trench on Hart Island, Thursday, April 9, 2020, in the Bronx borough of New York. A forensic medicine professional who died from the coronavirus in Thailand is believed to be the first reported person to catch COVID-19 from a dead body. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Workers wearing personal protective equipment bury bodies in a trench on Hart Island, Thursday, April 9, 2020, in the Bronx borough of New York. A forensic medicine professional who died from the coronavirus in Thailand is believed to be the first reported person to catch COVID-19 from a dead body. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

The letter added that the two medical professionals could "have contact with biological samples and corpses."

"According to our best knowledge, this is the first report on COVID-19 infection and death among medical personnel in a Forensic Medicine unit," the letter said, according to Newsweek.

Details on the age or name of the forensic practitioner and nurse assistant were not included. The study added there isn't any data on the number of contaminated corpses, because it's not a routine practice to examine for COVID-19 in dead bodies.

"Nevertheless, infection control and universal precautions are necessary," it said. "Forensic professionals have to wear protective devices including a protective suit, gloves, goggles, cap, and mask. The disinfection procedure used in operation rooms might be applied in pathology/forensic units too."

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The World Health Organization (WHO) previously stated that "there is no evidence of persons having become infected from exposure to the bodies of persons who died from COVID-19."

However, the WHO added that if a person died during the infectious period of COVID-19, lungs and other organs may still contain live virus.

"The safety and well-being of everyone who tends to bodies should be the first priority," the organization said. "Before attending to a body, people should ensure that the necessary hand hygiene and personal protective equipment (PPE) supplies are available."

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The news on possible infections from dead bodies comes as relatives of the deceased have been advised not to touch or kiss bodies of their loved ones, which has impacted funeral or death rituals in countries throughout the world, NPR reported.

As of Tuesday morning, Thailand has more than 2,613 COVID-19 cases and at least 40 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins.