Coronavirus found in vacant apartment toilet suggests virus could be flowing through pipes

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SARS-CoV-2 is spread primarily through respiratory droplets – saliva splash or a runny nose, according to the World Health Organization. Since the early weeks of the pandemic, however, Chinese scientists have said that the infectious SARS-CoV-2 virus in the stools of Covid-19 patients may also play a role in transmission. A February study of 73 patients hospitalized for the coronavirus in Guangdong province found that more than half tested positive for the virus in their stool.

Previous research has shown that flushing toilets can generate germ-laden aerosols from the feces, scientists at the Chinese CDC said. These particles can remain in the air for long periods of time and be dispersed over distances of more than 1 meter (3 feet), especially in confined and poorly ventilated spaces.

Fecal aerosolization has happened with SARS, and it may rarely happen with SARS-CoV-2, depending on sewage systems, said Malik Peiris, president of virology at the School. of Public Health at the University of Hong Kong. The CDC study in China found traces of the virus, “which is not the same as an infectious virus,” he said. “But you have to keep this possibility in mind.”

There are a lot of situations where things happen that are quite unusual

In the case of Amoy Gardens, the warm, humid bathroom air of a patient with SARS excreting “extremely high concentrations” of the virus in feces and urine established a plume in a duct. air that spread the airborne virus to other apartments, research shows.

Although the toilet is a daily necessity, it “can promote the transmission of fecal aerosols if improperly used, especially in hospitals,” the Chinese CDC researchers said. They cited a fluid dynamics simulation that showed “massive upward transport of viral aerosol particles” during flushing, leading to large-scale spread of the virus inside.

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