The deadly novel coronavirus has now left more than 14,000 people in over 20 countries infected. While scientists previously thought that the virus could spread from person-to-person contact, new case studies have also demonstrated that the spread could happen before the symptoms start showing. Now, Chinese state media is reporting that coronavirus could also spread through diarrhoea, transmitting along the faecal-oral route.
After scientists at the Renmin Hospital of Wuhan University and the Wuhan Institute of Virology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences observed that some coronavirus patients had diarrhoea instead of the fever symptom that most other patients were experiencing, they began testing the patients’ poop and rectal swabs. This brought them to the conclusion that the pathogen may not just spread through virus-infected droplets that spread from a sick person’s cough, but also through the faecal-oral route. In fact, the first case of coronavirus in the US showed signs of diarrhoea before developing pneumonia, and his doctors at the Providence Regional Medical Center Everett in Washington found specimens were positive for coronavirus. This has not only led researchers to dive deeper into how the disease spreads through our gastrointestinal tract, but also made them acknowledge the limitations of face masks and the importance of good hygiene and proper sanitation.
A virus can spread through the faecal-oral route when the infected person doesn’t wash their hands post taking a dump, and can even be transmitted through water contaminated by poor sewage treatment. This makes the situation even scarier, especially for South Asian countries like India, Bangladesh and Pakistan where poor hygiene, sanitation and lack of proper drinking water lead to more than 177,000 diarrhoea-related deaths.
The recommended precautions to prevent the spread through the faecal-oral route is by always washing our hands after using the washroom, disinfecting commonly touched surfaces like doorknobs, avoiding drinking tap water, and keeping a hand sanitizer handy.
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