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And After Death

A small study suggests that people who died of COVID-19 may still transmit SARS-CoV-2 after death, the Washington Post reports.

Researchers from University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf analyzed the stability of the viral genome in nearly 80 people who died of COVID-19. As they report in Emerging Infectious Diseases, the team collected nasopharyngeal swab samples for PCR analysis from individuals before and after they died of COVID-19 to find that death did not affect patients' viral load and that postmortem interval did not affect viral load. For 11 individuals, the researchers collected samples at regular time points for a week after death and, for most patients, they detected SARS-CoV-2 RNA at a constant level. This, the researchers say, suggest that patients who have died of COVID-19 may still be infectious. 

The researchers caution, though, that their study was small and included patients who were immunocompromised. 

Still, Post notes that the "findings add to the burdens of death-care workers," many of whom have been overwhelmed during the pandemic. It adds that the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued guidelines for the safe handling of the bodies of people who have died of COVID-19.