What's The Relation Between The Coronavirus and The Toilet Lid?

Published June 17th, 2020 - 09:05 GMT
(Shutterstock/ File Photo)
(Shutterstock/ File Photo)
Computer models found vortices from flush sends particles up to 3ft into the air

Putting the toilet lid down after defecating and before flushing could help stop the spread of COVID-19, a study has found.

The coronavirus is hardy and can survive a trip through a human's digestive system. It is often still present in faeces weeks after symptoms have stopped. 

Flushing stools kicks a cloud of infectious particles up to 3ft (one metre) above the water, due to turbulence created by the rapid flow of water, a study has found. 

Some particles are trapped by the bowl or the water, but in an uncovered toilet, up to 60 per cent of droplets escape above the rim.

Researchers say the virus could then either directly infect another person or settle on a nearby surface, such as a worktop or door handle. 

In order to combat this, scientists urge people using shared or public toilets to close the lid after concluding their business and before pulling the chain.  

Previous research has found SARS-CoV-2, the virus which causes COVID-19, can be transmitted via faecal particles. 

A study published last month in the Lancet identified virus particles in the excrement of COVID-19 patients nearly 5 weeks after the patients tested negative.

These particles were still viable and could cause faecal-oral transmission of the coronavirus, the researchers warned.   

Despite this, the general public is less aware of this potential route of transmission than they are other methods of infection. 

Great attention has been paid to airborne transmission, indirect transmission via a surface and direct human-to-human transmission via large droplets produced when coughing or sneezing.

Many people are now wearing masks and using hand sanitiser or anti-viral wipes to reduce the risk of transmission, but few are aware of the risks posed by faeces.

To understand more about the infection risk to others of going to the toilet, researchers from Yangzhou University ran a series of computer simulations. 


They looked at two common types of toilet flushing mechanism, one with a single water inlet and one with two inlets to create a rotating flow.

Simulations showed that water cascading down the side of the ceramic hits the opposite side of the bowl and this creates vortices, similar to a tornado or whirlpool. 

As the water continues to pour in to flush away the deposited waste, the vortices rise into the air.   

Infected droplets, which could be carrying any virus, including influenza or the coronavirus causing the current pandemic,are carried on this wind.

The turbulence can see then rise up to 3ft (one metre) into the air and, once they escape the bowl, the air currents can carry them across a cubicle or bathroom. 

Droplets are so small in size and mass that they remain airborne for more than 60 seconds.   

'One can foresee that the velocity will be even higher when a toilet is used frequently, such as in the case of a family toilet during a busy time or a public toilet serving a densely populated area,' said co-author Ji-Xiang Wang, of Yangzhou University. 

The full findings have been published in the journal Physics of Fluids. 

This article has been adapted from its original source. 

© Associated Newspapers Ltd.

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