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Cases of COVID-19 were first reported in the Chinese city of Wuhan last year, with authorities claiming the virus spread from animals to humans in a meat market. But now, traces of the virus have been found in a bathroom in an unoccupied apartment.
Back in February, traces of SARS-CoV-2 were discovered on the sink, faucet and shower handle of the long-vacant flat, according to researchers at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
According to a study published this month, the bathroom was directly above the home of five people confirmed to have contracted the deadly virus this week.
Scientists conducted an “on-site tracer simulation experiment” to check whether the virus could be spread through pipes via airborne particles created by the toilet flush.
Following their study, particles were found in bathrooms 10 and 12 levels above the confirmed cases.
Two cases were confirmed on each of the floors back in February, causing concerns the virus had spread via stool particles drifting into their homes via plumbing.
Song Tang, a scientist with the China CDC Key Laboratory of Environment and Population Health, said: “Although transmission via the shared elevator cannot be excluded, this event is consistent with the findings of the Amoy Garden SARS outbreak in Hong Kong in 2003.”
The 2003 SARS outbreak saw 329 housing estate residents diagnosed with the severe respiratory syndrome in part because of faulty sewage pipelines.
Around 42 residents died, making it the most devastating community outbreak of the virus.
Lidia Morawska, director of the International Laboratory for Air Quality and Health at Australia’s Queensland University of Technology, believes multi-storey buildings may be linked by a shared wastewater system.
Ms Morawska said: “If there’s smell, it means that somehow air has been transported to where it shouldn’t go.”
The World Health Organisation believes COVID-19 is spread through respiratory droplets, such as saliva and discharge from the nose.
However, Chinese scientists have said infectious SARS-CoV-2 virus in the stool of COVID-19 patients could also play a role in transmission.
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In a study of 73 patients hospitalised with COVID-19, more than half tested positive for the virus in their stool samples.
The China CDC researchers said despite toilets being a daily necessity, they “may promote fecal-derived aerosol transmission if used improperly, particularly in hospitals.”
Raina MacIntyre, professor of global biosecurity at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, said: “The study finds high plausibility for airborne transmission and outlines the evidence in great detail.”
Coronavirus continues to ravage the world with scientists and researchers working to find a vaccine for the deadly outbreak.
On an international scale, more than 24,000,000 people have been infected with the global death toll reaching 831,039.
The USA has been the worst-hit country so far with infections surpassing 6,000,000 and deaths reaching 183,913.
Brazil has also recorded more than tree million cases and more than 100,000 deaths.
Since the outbreak of the virus, Washington has continually blamed Beijing for deliberately spreading the pandemic.
US President Donald Trump has criticised the WHO for being too “China-centric”. Both China and the WHO have rejected allegations from the US President.
Other countries which have managed the curb the virus are now seeing a rise in new cases.
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