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Can flushing toilet spread COVID-19?

Date: 18 June 2020 Tags: Miscellaneous

Issue

A new study says that blocking the path of faecal-oral transmission, which commonly occurs during toilet usage, is key to suppressing the spread of the novel coronavirus.

 

Background

The study points out that flushing a toilet generates “strong turbulence within the bowl”. The question is if this turbulent flow can expel aerosol particles containing viruses out of the bowl.

 

Details

  • The authors say that upward velocity of as much as 5 m/second is produced while flushing, which is capable of expelling aerosol particles out of the toilet bowl.

  • Further, they note that 40-60 per cent of the total number of particles can rise above the toilet seat to cause a large-area spread, with the height of particles reaching more than 106 cm from the ground. Even after flushing (35-70 seconds) after the last flushing, the diffused particles continue to climb.

  • The study also says that as per the characteristics of faecal-oral transmission, there are likely to be a large amount of viruses within the toilet bowl when an infected person uses it, and therefore, toilets should be regarded as an infection source. Improper toilet use increases the chances that such a transmission will occur.

  • In the case of SARS-CoV-2, while the presence of the virus has been found in faeces, it cannot be said with certainty if the virus can be transmitted through faeces.

  • In India, the spread of the novel coronavirus through the faecal-oral route is not the main feature of the outbreak, and the primary route remains droplets from an infected person when they cough or sneeze.

  • The authors recommend that toilet seats should be put down before flushing and seats should be cleaned before using since floating virus particles can be present on the surface.

  • Blocking the path of faecal–oral transmission can reduce the probability of cross-infection in surrounding areas, thus suppressing the global spread of emerging and re-emerging viruses.