The spread of coronavirus could be prevented by flushing the toilet with the lid down, scientists have urged. The study from China has shown the virus can exist in patients’ stools, because in some people the virus takes hold in the digestive system.
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Scientists have said one of the “easiest ways” to prevent more people catching the virus is to avoid creating a “toilet plume”.
A toilet plume is created when faeces or urine particles are stirred up by the flush of water and then released into the air of the bathroom.
Diarrhoea has been cited as one of the symptoms of coronavirus, so for family and friends experiencing this, it may be worth taking note.
Flushing the toilet with the lid up can cause pathogens to settle on nearby surfaces, including towels and toothbrushes.
The virus has also been found to survive on different surfaces for several hours – sometimes even days.
The World Health Organization has warned the virus may spread via fomites, which is when the infection survives on inanimate objects.
The study carried out in China analysed 73 hospitalised patients.
Published in the journal Gastroenterology, it found the virus is detectable in faecal samples, indicating the virus spreads into a person’s stools.
Of the 73 patients, 39 tested positive for faecal SARS-CoV-2.
The stools of 17 patients remained positive even after swabs from the throat or noses tested negative.
It’s highly unlikely someone would catch coronavirus directly from another person’s stools, but the scientists said extra precautions can be taken.
Qingyan Chen, an engineer at Purdue University, told Forbes there’s “one very easy way to help prevent the spread of coronavirus” – too close the lid of the toilet before flushing.
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He added 80 percent of particles that escape from faecal matter into the air can be prevented this way.
A part by the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology published in 2012 also suggested that toilet plume can spread disease.
The researchers working on the paper found “infectious aerosols may be produced in substantial quantities during flushing”.
The team added: “Aerosolization can continue through multiple flushes to expose subsequent toilet users.”
Other ways to prevent the spread of coronavirus
The NHS recommends a number of things you can do to help reduce the risk of you and anyone you live with getting ill with COVID-19.
- Wash your hands with soap and water often – do this for at least 20 seconds
- Use hand sanitiser gel if soap and water are not available
- Wash your hands as soon as you get home
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze
- Put used tissues in the bin immediately and wash your hands afterwards
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