April 15, 2020 - A medical professional in Thailand was infected with coronavirus while working with a corpse – apparently the first known case of the virus spreading from a dead body, according to letter in a medical journal.
The unnamed medical professional, only identified as a “forensic practitioner” in Bangkok, died from coronavirus, said a letter published in the Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine.
“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 the letter written by Won Sriwijitalai of the RVT Medical Center in Bangkok, and Viroj Wiwanitkit of Hainan Medical University in Haikou, China.
They wrote that pathology/forensic units might want to adopt the disinfection procedures used in operating rooms. Workers in forensic departments are already wearing protective devices such as gloves, goggles and masks, they wrote.
Angelique Corthals, a professor of pathology at City University of New York, told BuzzFeed that medical examiners, morgue technicians and people working in funeral homes need to take special care. “It’s a real concern,” she said.
The letter in the medical journal said forensic medical professionals have a low chance of coming in contact with patients with coronavirus, but “they can have contact with biological samples and corpses.”
The letter writers said nobody knows how many corpses contaminated with coronavirus exist because dead bodies are not routinely examined for the virus in Thailand.
Thailand has not been hit hard by coronavirus – Johns Hopkins University reports about 2,600 cases and 40 deaths – but was one of the first countries outside of China to report a case.