Can COVID-19 Spread Through Water?
Apr 16 2021
According to the most up-to-date scientific and medical knowledge, COVID-19 is most commonly spread from person-to-person, via droplets in the air which are expelled from a person’s body when they cough, sneeze or speak. Less commonly, it is also possible to contract the virus from touching a surface upon which it is present, which is why the WHO recommends social distancing, the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) and frequent handwashing to limit exposure as much as possible.
However, there are certain rumours circulating on the internet and in some less reputable media sources which suggest that COVID-19 can be spread through water, as well. According to the source in question, this could either take the form of ingesting contaminated drinking water or simply being in an infected body of water, such as a swimming pool. When dealing with a subject as serious as a global pandemic, it’s highly important to separate the fact from fiction, which is what this article aims to do.
Dispelling the myths
The WHO have been very clear that there is no danger of transmitting the disease via water, whether that be drinking water, swimming pool water or any other conduit made of water. That’s chiefly due to the fact that the advanced filtration techniques employed at wastewater treatment facilities are capable of removing all impurities – including infectious strains of the COVID-19 genetic material – from the stream, meaning that it’s completely safe to drink by the time it enters the public infrastructure.
Meanwhile, similar logic holds true when it comes to swimming pool. Since all water that is used to fill public swimming pools is thoroughly disinfected, there is no chance of contracting the disease from simply submerging yourself in (or even accidentally ingesting) water from such a source. However, the fact that public swimming pools are often visited by large numbers of people – some of whom many be unwittingly infected with the disease – does mean that the risk of transmission is higher at these locations.
Can COVID-19 be spread via wastewater?
When it comes to the subject of whether coronavirus can be spread through the sewage system, the science is less clear. It’s certainly true that fragments of the disease’s DNA have been found in human faeces and indeed, there is a whole industry focused on wastewater-based epidemiology (WBE). This aims to provide a better idea of how many people in a population subset or community are suffering from the virus without the need for individual screening. For more information on the subject, check out the article Rapid detection of risks to microbial safety of water using BACTcontrol rapidly detecting faecal pollutions related to microbial infections, recently including COVID-19.
Whether or not COVID-19 can actually spread via sewage is another matter. Although no scientific studies have found evidence of a person contracting the virus via that medium as yet, they have not been able to conclusively rule out the possibility that the scenario could occur in the future.
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