Medical examiner dies after contracting coronavirus from dead body, scientists say
A sign that reads "Khaosan Road prays for the world" hangs on the shuttered tourist haven on April 15, 2020 in Bangkok, Thailand.(Lauren DeCicca/Getty Images)
Researchers believe that a medical examiner in Thailand is the first person to die from coronavirus after contracting the disease from a corpse.
The mysterious case is also the first known transmission from a dead body to a forensic worker, according to a study published this week in the Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine.
“There is low chance of forensic medicine professionals coming into contact with infected patients, but they can have contact with biological samples and corpses,” co-authors Won Sriwijitalai, of the RVT Medical Center in Bangkok, and Viroj Wiwanitkit, of China’s Hainan Medical University, wrote in the study.
The medical examiner, who was not identified, worked in the Thai capital, but no details have been released about the case.
The researchers said the country has no data on the exact number of corpses infected with COVID-19 since it’s “not a routine practice” in Thailand to test for the disease after a person has died.
“Nevertheless, infection control and universal precautions are necessary,” they wrote, urging medical examiners to take precautions when doing their work.
“Forensic professionals have to wear protective devices including a protective suit, gloves, goggles, cap and mask,” the study says. “The disinfection procedure used in operation rooms might be applied in pathology/forensic units too.”
As of Thursday, Thailand has confirmed nearly 2,700 coronavirus infections and at least 46 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.