COVID-19 corpses are not infectious – WHO

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Guyana has so far recorded two deaths from the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) and there are questions about whether the corpses remain infectious.

According to Country Representative for the Pan-American Health Organisation/World Health Organisation (PAHO/WHO) Dr William Adu-Krow, “to date, there is no evidence of the dead bodies transmitting the condition to the living.”

Speaking at a press conference earlier in the week, Dr Adu-Krow noted that persons are still expected to take caution since the virus remains on surfaces for various lengths of time.

“So generally, having said that, it does not mean that because we say it is not infectious, you love the dead so much that you will want to kiss it or anything of the sort. We still have to practice prevention and control,” Dr. Adu-Krow emphasised.

Resident representative of the Pan-American Health Organisation/World Health Organisation (PAHO/WHO) in Guyana Dr. William Adu-Krow [Photo: Avidesh Narine/News Room]
According to the WHO, “Except in cases of hemorrhagic fevers (such as Ebola, Marburg) and Cholera, dead bodies are generally not infectious.”

The WHO explained that only the lungs of patients with pandemic influenza if handled improperly during an autopsy, can be infectious. Otherwise, cadavers do not transmit disease.

The WHO further stated that “It is a common myth that persons who have died of a communicable disease should be cremated, but this is not true. Cremation is a matter of cultural choice and available resources.”

As of March 31, Guyana confirmed 12 cases of the COVID-19 with two deaths.

The first case –a 52-year-old woman of Good Hope on the East Coast of Demerara –died at the Georgetown Public Hospital on March 11. She had recently travelled from the United States with her husband and children.

The woman’s 65-year-old husband, two children and one grandchild have since been tested positive for the disease and remain in isolation at a Government facility.

One of her sons, Suraj Baboolall told the News Room that his mother’s body was handed over to the family and placed at a private mortuary until they are released from isolation to perform the cremation.

The second death from the COVID-19 was recorded on Tuesday morning. A 38-year-old man who was admitted to the Coronavirus Intensive Care Unit succumbed to related complications early on Tuesday morning after efforts to resuscitate him proved futile.

The News Room understands that at least one of the man’s relatives was tested positive for the disease and has been placed in institutional isolation while others are in quarantine.

See below full Infection Prevention and Control for the safe management of a dead body in the context of COVID-19:

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