Two new studies have found that the COVID-19 virus can remain in the bodies of deceased patients for up to 17 days after their death. This calls for caution from healthcare workers, medical examiners, pathologists, and family members when in contact with dead bodies. Hisako Saitoh, a researcher at Chiba University in Japan who published the studies, commented that the public should be aware of this information. Dr. Saitoh's study showed dead bodies may carry significant amounts of infectious virus and dead hamsters can give it to their living cage mates. The researchers found the most virus in the lungs, as opposed to the upper respiratory tract, and said gases that build up after death can be released through any orifice, including the mouth, and may carry disease. Embalming and the Japanese practice of "angel care," which is plugging the mouth, nose, ears, and anus with cotton pads, were found to prevent transmission.
The risk of a live patient spreading coronavirus is still much greater than transmission from corpses, scientists maintain. Still, the CDC has warned that the recent spike of COVID cases could be high enough to warrant face masks in indoor settings to prevent the spread of the virus. In their weekly report, the CDC stated that several communities are now rated "high" for COVID levels, including New York City and Los Angeles. People are encouraged to use online resources from the CDC, WHO, and local public health departments to stay up-to-date with the most recent information.