WASHINGTON — QUESTION:
Is it possible to catch COVID-19 from a dead body?
Yes, it is technically possible to catch the coronavirus from a dead body. But there are some details you should keep in mind.
According to a letter published recently in the Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine, a forensic practitioner in Thailand tested positive for coronavirus in March after working with a deceased patient who could’ve had the coronavirus.
So let's verify: Can you catch COVID-19 from a dead body?
Our Verify team looked through sources like the CDC, the World Health Organization, and the National Association of Medical Examiners.
We already know coronavirus is primarily spread through respiratory droplets when people cough, sneeze or talk. So it's less likely to be passed on by a dead body.
However, a statement from the National Association of Medical Examiners says, "The risk of droplet transmission of COVID-19 after death is thought to be minimal."
But transmission is still technically possible, especially considering forensic medicine personnel are usually the type of people interacting with corpses regularly.
In that same NAME statement, it says, "The risk of acquiring COVID-19 is greater in the community than in the autopsy."
Additionally, the WHO says most infectious viruses don't survive long in the human body after death.
But what about losing a loved one and going to a funeral? Should you be worried?
Well, the CDC said there is no known risk associated with being in the same room as a body. But there could be a risk if you touch the body, such as hand-holding, kissing, or hugging.
The CDC also has an entire page dedicated to safe practices for medical professionals who perform autopsies on bodies with possible COVID-19 cases.
So we can verify: Yes, it is technically possible to catch the coronavirus from a dead body. But it’s not something medical experts are overly worried about.
For example, Dr. Robert Poirier, the chief of the emergency department at Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis, told KDSK that exposure for medical professionals can be easily prevented.
"If you wear your mask and your goggles and your gloves and you maintain appropriate protective equipment and protection, there's really nothing to worry about, from the bodies," Poirier said.