As if grieving a loved one isn’t hard enough, now healthcare experts are warning family members to be cautious because coronavirus can persist in corpses of infected patients, potentially spreading it to others up to 17 days after death, according to a study published in the International Journal of Legal Medicine.
In fact, several studies have found traces of infectious virus in corpses. The most recent study shows that dead bodies may carry significant amounts of infectious virus (and that dead hamsters can transmit it to live cage mates).
In countries like the US, the risk is mainly focused on medical examiners and healthcare workers because bodies are typically embalmed or cremated soon after death. However, in countries like the Netherlands, it’s typical for families to wash and dress the bodies at home.
“Most people probably still need to worry a lot more about getting Covid from their living neighbors than their recently deceased ones,” Angela Rasmussen, a research scientist at the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization at the University of Saskatchewan in Canada, said to The New York Times. But she added that they “should be very cautious about physical contact with their loved ones’ remains.”
Another COVID surge is expected in the US this winter, Abraar Karan, MD, MPH, previously told POPSUGAR. “[A]t this point, there is likely a seasonal aspect to this virus,” he said, “and we are seeing cases rapidly rising in Europe, which has been a foreboding for the US multiple times now.” He said that the length of the expected surge is hard to predict but believes it will last “several weeks at minimum.”
As always, it’s important to take steps to keep you and your loved ones safe and healthy by following COVID-19 precautions. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now recommend COVID omicron booster shots for kids as young as 5, per NPR.