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COVID-19 and Sudden Unexpected Community Deaths in Lusaka, Zambia, Africa – A Medico-Legal Whole-Body Autopsy Case Series

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Int J Infect Dis. 2021 Jul 5;109:160-167. doi: 10.1016/j.ijid.2021.07.001. Online ahead of print.


BACKGROUND: Data from Africa regarding sudden and unexpected COVID-19 community deaths and underlying pathological, demographic, and co-morbidity features require definition.

METHODS: We performed a case series of COVID-19-related deaths seen at Forensic Post-Mortem examination of sudden and unexpected Community Deaths in Lusaka, Zambia, Africa. Whole-body Post-Mortem examinations were performed according to Standard Operating Procedures. Patient demographics, history, co-morbidities, pathological gross and microscopic findings, and cause(s) of death were recorded. Variables were grouped as frequencies and percentages. Comparison of data was made with autopsy findings of hospital COVID-19 deaths.

FINDINGS: Of 21 COVID-19 decedents, 14/21 (66.7%) were male; 18/21, (85.7%) were below 55 years of age (mean age, 40 ± 12.3; range, 20-73). The median duration of symptoms was 1 day (range 0-2); 9/21 (42.9%) had co-morbidities, with hypertension and obesity being the most common. Main post-mortem findings were diffuse alveolar damage (DAD) (80.9%), saddle and shower emboli (38.1%, respectively), and pneumonia (14.3%). Pulmonary thromboembolism (76.2%), DAD (14.3%), and SARS-CoV-2 pneumonia (9.5%) were common causes of death.

CONCLUSIONS: COVID-19 is an important cause of death to consider in forensic investigations of sudden and unexpected community deaths. Risk factors for the younger age of COVID-19 deaths and thromboembolism need to be identified.

PMID:34320461 | DOI:10.1016/j.ijid.2021.07.001

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