September 8, 2020

Fact-Check: Do Corpses Spread COVID-19 as Had been Widely Believed?

A burial takes place late May of the first COVID-19 victim in Rwanda.

As of this September 6, Rwanda has recorded a total of 19 death caused by the COVID-19 virus with their funerals conducted by medical teams wearing heavy personal protective equipment.

Apart from the first death, no other victim has received any media attention. Pictures from that day showed family members and journalists standing a stance away, as the body was buried by the specialized teams.

For months and weeks, pictures from Europe, South Africa, Brazil or the US, showed bodies being handled in what many considered unbecoming; using graders in some cases, and mass graves in others. Critics have contended the dead, like it has been since time immemorial, have to be laid to rest with respect.

The reason is because, for sometime, the scientists were not sure, and believed a dead body of a COVID-19 patient transmits the novel coronavirus.

As early as March 24, there is no evidence of persons having become infected from exposure to the bodies of persons who died from COVID-19. The WHO actually issued its interim guidelines around the same period, which were confirmed in July.

The WHO further adds any body fluids leaking from orifices in the cadaver must be contained. There is no need to disinfect the body before transfer to the mortuary area.

People who have died from COVID-19 can be buried or cremated.

However, WHO also mentioned that those who are constantly in contact with corpses may witness tuberculosis, bloodborne viruses (eg hepatitis B and C and HIV) and gastrointestinal infections.

Workers who routinely handle corpses may, however, risk contracting tuberculosis, bloodborne viruses (eg hepatitis B and C and HIV) and gastrointestinal infections (e.g. cholera, E. coli, hepatitis A, rotavirus diarrhoea, salmonellosis, shigellosis and typhoid/paratyphoid fevers).

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