(DAILY MAIL UK) – A medical examiner in Thailand died after catching coronavirus from a dead patient, scientists believe.
The forensic worker was infected in Bangkok in what is thought to be the first such case anywhere in the world.
Researchers warned in a letter published in the Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine that forensic workers would have to guard themselves against infection.
Health organisations such as the WHO have urged people handling dead bodies to be careful because it is still not fully understood how the virus spreads.
The researchers wrote their letter on March 20, when most of Thailand’s cases were imported and there were few signs of the virus spreading in the community, they said.
Scientists said there was a ‘low chance’ that a forensic examiner would have come into contact with an infected patient normally, but they do have contact with dead bodies.
‘At present, there is no data on the exact number of COVID-19 contaminated corpses’ because they are not routinely checked, the scientists said.
‘Nevertheless, infection control and universal precautions are necessary.
‘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.’
The researchers say that ‘according to our best knowledge’ it is the first such case anywhere in the world.
Thailand has reported 2,613 cases of coronavirus and 34 deaths, according to the country’s department of disease control.
The World Health Organisation warns people handling dead bodies to be cautious because it is not yet fully clear exactly the virus spreads.
Medics are particularly warned against coming into contact with body fluids.
As a comparison, WHO experts warn that the lungs of people who died of influenza can be infectious ‘if handled improperly during an autopsy’.
However, the WHO says that most viruses ‘do not survive long in the human body after death’.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States (CDC) warns people to wear protective equipment when handling the bodies of virus victims.