Coronavirus may spread in faeces: Scientists give six tips on how to keep pipes pathogen-free

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Coronavirus may spread in faeces

Coronavirus: Scientists have put together a set of tips that could stop the coronavirus spreading in at-home plumbing systems.

Virtually unheard of at the start of the year, the new pathogen strain is somewhat mysterious.

It mainly spreads face-to-face via infected droplets that are expelled when a patient coughs or sneezes, hence the importance of social distancing.

Early research suggest the infection is mild in four out of five cases, however, it can trigger a respiratory disease called COVID-19.

To help combat this, a team from Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh are advising the public to run their taps twice a day and not ignore any foul smells coming from their bathroom.

The coronavirus is thought to have emerged at a seafood and live animal market in the Chinese city Wuhan at the end of last year.

It has since spread into more than 180 countries across every inhabited continent.

Since the outbreak was identified, more than one million cases have been confirmed, of whom over 212,000 have “recovered”, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Incidences have been plateauing in China since the end of February, and the US and Europe are now the worst-hit areas.

The UK has had more than 34,100 confirmed cases and over 2,900 deaths.

Globally, the death toll has exceeded 53,100.

Coronavirus: Does it spread in faeces?

Fears the coronavirus may spread via faecal matter arose in mid-February when two people living 10 floors apart in the same Hong Kong apartment block were diagnosed.

Officials later found an unsealed pipe in one of the patient’s bathroom, which could have allowed the virus into her flat.

The coronavirus is one of seven strains of a virus class that are known to infect humans.

Others trigger the common cold, while one leads to severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars), which killed 774 people during its 2002/3 outbreak.

The new coronavirus is said to be more genetically similar to Sars than any other strain of that class.

In 2003, 342 people were diagnosed with Sars, of whom 42 died, in a 50-storey apartment block in Hong Kong.

The World Health Organization concluded “inadequate plumbing” was a “likely contributor”.

“Virus rich excreta” was thought to have “re-entered residents’ apartments” via “sewage and drainage systems where there were strong upward air flows, inadequate ‘traps’ and non-functional water seals”.

While the coronavirus may shed in human waste, some experts have questioned whether these traces are infectious.

“It isn’t a very pleasant thought, but every time you swallow, you swallow mucus from your upper respiratory tract,” said Dr John Edmunds from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.

“This sweeps viruses and bacteria down into our gut, where they are denatured in the acid conditions of our stomach.

“With modern, very highly sensitive detection mechanisms we can detect these viruses in faeces.

“Usually, viruses we can detect in this way are not infectious to others, as they have been destroyed by our guts.”

Unlike with Sars, diarrhoea is not a common symptom of the new coronavirus, suggesting human waste is not a main route of transmission.

Coronavirus may spread in faeces