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As the coronavirus pandemic rages on, scientists are learning more about the disease every day.
Take for example, a new BuzzFeed News report of the first case and death from COVID-19 that was contracted from a previously infected dead body. According to the report, the virus was transmitted from the corpse to a medical examiner working in Thailand.
"This is the first report on COVID-19 infection and death among medical personnel in a Forensic Medicine unit," the Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine said in a study released on Sunday.
Little is known about how long the coronavirus can survive in dead bodies or how it is transmitted once the person is deceased. As a result, healthcare workers and other personnel who handle the dead are now at an increased risk of contracting the virus.
"Not just the medical examiners, but morgue technicians and the people in funeral homes need to take extra care," a professor of pathology at CUNY's John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Angelique Corthals, told Buzzfeed. "It is a real concern."
Coronavirus isn't the only illness that can be transmitted through dead bodies. From the studies of diseases like Ebola, hepatitis, tuberculosis, and cholera, health professionals are aware of ways to protect themselves if they come in contact with an infected body.
"Anyone coming into contact with a COVID19 positive body, alive or dead, should be using personal protective equipment to prevent exposure," the University of New Haven's Summer Johnson McGee explained. Also, the Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine said that similar disinfection practices used for operation rooms could be applied to pathology/forensic units to protect workers.
As the world continues to fight the coronavirus, some places are turning to temporary morgues and temporary mass burials of victims. Learning that the virus could be spread through these bodies, will allow workers to adequately store these victims without increasing the spread of the coronavirus.