Does coronavirus spread through building pipes?

New concerns have been raised surrounding methods coronavirus now called COVID-19 can spread. This is after two Hong Kong residents fell ill even though they live in different houses in the same apartment. According to reports, this incident of the two victims that live on separate floors has facilitated the launch of investigations on whether the respiratory disease can spread through pipes. Residents are worried about how the virus can spread through drainage building pipes.

On February 11th, Chinese authorities say they had quarantined the apartment residents after the second case of COVID-19 was identified. The apartment which is located in Tsing Yi, Hong Kong, hosted more than 100 people. A 62-year-old woman was the second person to contract the illness. A New York Times report stated that the two victims were ten floors apart, prompting investigations on whether the building’s infrastructure could be the problem. Authorities found a loose pipe in the woman’s bathroom.

In 2003, during the outbreak of SARS – severe acute respiratory syndrome, officials had investigated a case where the virus spread through faulty building pipes. The World Health Organization reported that the Hong Kong apartment called Amoy Gardens had faulty plumbing causing the spread of the virus. SARS, which is caused by COVID-19, spreads through human waste in sewage. Dr. Amesh Adalja of John Hopkins Center for Health Security said though sewage pipes are kept away from human contact, leaks and a possible breach could expose people to the disease. He added that the virus is aerosolized into the air.

In a 2003 Washington Post article, the SARS coronavirus was found to spread through pipes. It said that the air from the drains at Amoy Gardens would flow backward. This is despite modern pipes having a U shape to prevent this from happening. Studies on coronavirus have reported the presence of the virus in stool. One of the symptoms of the virus includes bowel discomfort and diarrhea. This proves that coronavirus can spread through fecal contamination.

Dr. Adalja says that this mode of transmission is secondary. The primary method of transmission is through saliva from sneezes and coughs. Hong Kong’s secretary of health, Yeoh Eng-Kiong said contaminated droplets could have been deposited on toiletries adding that it could be caused by negative pressure when the bathroom door is closed.

According to Reuters, five other victims showed symptoms of the illness but tested negative. Additionally, officials also proved that the building’s drainage system was well designed and built. This has raised more questions on how the virus spreading rapidly.

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