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Scientists believe coronavirus can travel through plumbing - after three families living in a high rise building in China tested positive for the virus despite never coming into contact with each other and living 12 floors apart

by Sven Lusk (2020-10-31)


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Scientists believe coronavirus can travel through plumbing - after three families living in a high rise building in China tested positive for the virus despite never coming into contact with each other and living 12 floors apart.

Four members of a family-of-five living on the 15th floor of the apartment in Guangzhou, China, had recently returned home from Wuhan - the centre of the outbreak - when two middle aged couples on the 25th and 27th floors started feeling unwell.

Footage showed the groups never shared an elevator during the time they were infected, and scientists found no traces of coronavirus on the elevator's buttons.

Positive virus samples were found in the family-of-five's apartment - especially in the master bedroom.  

Four members of a family-of-five living on the 15th floor of the apartment in Guangzhou, China, had recently returned home from Wuhan (pictured) - the centre of the outbreak - when two middle aged couples on the 25th and 27th floors started feeling unwell

Now a study has suggested the virus could have travelled through the building's plumbing, in airborne particles called 'bio aerosols'.

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In a study published on Tuesday, scientists released ethane gas down the family-of-five's toilet and checked for gas in the apartments above.

They said it would make sense for the gas to travel upwards because in the winter warm air rises - something called the 'chimney effect'.

The gas was found in the two middle-aged couple's apartments as well as two others on the 16th and 21st floors.

Now a study has suggested the virus could have travelled through the building's plumbing, in airborne particles called 'bio aerosols'

Patients wearing face masks are seen at Tongji Hospital in Wuhan, China's central Hubei province on September 3

Those couples may have inhaled the coronavirus particles directly or touched the surfaces where they landed to become ill.

Coronavirus usually spreads in respiratory droplets after an infected person coughs, sneezes or speaks. 

Bio aerosols can linger in the air for 30 minutes or more after a toilet is flushed, according to a 2018 study.

And researchers found certain environments make airborne transmission more common - including poorly ventilated rooms.

A May study showed the amount of coronavirus aerosol cut in half after 30 seconds in a well-ventilated room - compared with five minutes in a room with no ventilation.