A new study says Coronavirus may have crawled through faulty toilet pipes bringing back a SARS nightmare

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  • Scientists have found SARS-CoV-2 in a washroom of an empty apartment in China.
  • The washroom was located right above the washroom of another apartment where five people tested positive for coronavirus.
  • Scientists also confirmed that coronavirus particles were present in washrooms of apartments located 10 or 12 levels above COVID-19 cases.

Scientists have discovered traces of coronavirus in a vacant apartment in Guangzhou, China— suggesting that SARS-CoV-2 which causes COVID-19 may have drifted to the apartment through sewage pipes, according to a
Bloomberg report.

In February, SARS-CoV-2 was present on shower handle, sink, faucet of a washroom of an apartment located on the 16th floor. The washroom was located right above the washroom of another apartment where five people tested positive for coronavirus, the researchers at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention
said in a study published in Environment International.

“The possibility of aerosol diffusion through sewage pipe after flushing the toilet at the 15-floor restroom was further confirmed by an onsite tracer simulation experiment showing aerosols were found in the restroom of apartments at 25-floor (two cases confirmed on Feb 1) and 27-floor (two cases confirmed on Feb 6 and 13),”
the study said.

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Scientists also confirmed that coronavirus particles were present in washrooms of apartments located 10 or 12 levels above COVID-19 cases. Each one of those floors reported at least two confirmed cases in early February. The study suggests the SARS-CoV-2 particles present in the patient’s faeces may have moved into the different washrooms via plumbing.

Scientists across the world are still trying to understand the nature of SARS-CoV-2 to further examine different ways it can infect humans. At first, the World Health Organisation (WHO) denied any human to human transmission but later, it said that COVID-19 patients — whether asymptomatic or symptomatic — are contagious. WHO recently said that airborne transmission of coronavirus is possible.

“Apartments in multistory buildings may be linked via a shared wastewater system. If there’s a smell, it means that somehow air has been transported to where it shouldn’t go,”
said Lidia Morawska, director of the International Laboratory for Air Quality and Health at the Australia’s Queensland University of Technology.

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The transmission of coronavirus particle, in this case, is eerily similar to the spread of the severe acute respiratory syndrome in Hong Kong’s Amoy Garden private housing estate. About twenty years ago, 329 residents were infected with SARS after the virus spread through their faulty sewage pipelines.

“Although transmission via the shared elevator cannot be excluded, this event is consistent with the findings of the Amoy Gardens SARS outbreak in Hong Kong in 2003,” Scientist Song Tang, who works with with the China CDC Key Laboratory of Environment and Population Health, and colleagues wrote in the study citing unpublished data.

According to Bloomberg, several researches have earlier found that toilet flushes can generate aerosols from excreta. These particles remain in the air and can spread upto a distance of more than a meter.

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Toilets “may promote faecal-derived aerosol transmission if used improperly, particularly in hospitals,” the China CDC researchers said.

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