By Leader Editor Kara Apel
An article in a medical journal written by experts appears to suggest that a medical examiner in Thailand contracted COVID-19 from a deceased person.
The report was written by the co-authors on March 20 and was published in the Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine in early April.
The report reads: “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 authors explained how the virus has been primarily transmitted in the country so far, indicating that it was most likely that the forensic professional had contact with a biological sample/corpse instead of a living person with COVID-19:
Details about the medical examiner, including name and age, were not released. The article does not explain what type of PPE the employee was using, nor does it discuss the sanitizing and cleaning procedures that were being used at this specific facility.
While it remains unclear how the co-authors are certain the individual contracted COVID-19 from the body, many national news outlets have picked up on the story, including Newsweek, BuzzFeed News, Business Insider, and several others.
What the CDC Has Said
Experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have previously said they do not believe a dead infected person can spread COVID-19 because they are not sneezing or coughing, which spreads the droplets that carry the germs.
Their website reads: “The virus likely spreads primarily through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes, similar to how influenza and other respiratory infections spread. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. This type of spread is not a concern after death.”
The CDC previously issued this guidance for funeral directors:
- Funerals and visitations can still be held.
- Funeral professionals are advised to follow their routine infection, prevention, and control precautions when handling a patient who died of COVID-19.
- If a body needs to be transferred to a bag, follow standard precautions and wear additional PPE if the splashing of fluids is expected.
- Disinfect the outside of bags with an EPA-approved product and wear disposable nitrile gloves while handling the body bag.
- Embalming can be conducted, following standard precautions and the use of additional PPE.
- Professionals are advised to “wear appropriate respiratory protection” if any procedures will generate aerosols.
- After cleaning and removing PPE, make sure to wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer (with at least 60% alcohol) if soap and water are not available.
But What if You Can’t Get PPE?
Many funeral directors across the country have been raising their concerns about their inability to obtain proper PPE, a crisis that has plagued the nation’s healthcare workers too.
The National Funeral Directors Association has been keeping tabs on the ongoing PPE shortage and also advocating for the industry at the national level. According to NFDA, the PPE that is currently being manufactured is being sent to FEMA, which is then being distributed to each state’s Emergency Operations Center. From there, the state EOCs are determining who will receive the PPE. Click here to view the list of emergency contacts for each state. NFDA is urging anyone who has any solid leads on PPE to contact them at [email protected]. NFDA has also compiled a list of vendors for funeral professionals. Click here to view the list.
Selected Independent Funeral Homes has created a Member Share Center where funeral professionals can exchange or share any needed resources. Learn more here. Selected has also compiled a comprehensive list of information and resources for professionals.
Do you have any advice about obtaining PPE for your firm? Have any information you’d like to share? Email us at [email protected].