The researchers note that there are no documented cases of the spread of the virus in this way.
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Closing the toilet lid when flushing can prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
That’s according to researchers in China who used a computer simulation to show how a flushed toilet can create a cloud of virus-containing aerosol droplets, allowing the spread of viruses to spread indoors.
Although the researchers did not conduct an in-person experiment using real coronavirus particles, they say their simulation offers new evidence that it is probably smart to close the toilet before flushing.
COVID-19 is very much a respiratory virus, which means that it is generally found in the lungs. However, virus particles have also been detected in the stool. And it’s easier than you might think for viral particles to spread from stool to your mouth, usually accidentally ingesting it from contaminated food or water. Other viruses, such as hepatitis A, norovirus, and polio, can also be transmitted this way.
The recent study, published in Physics of Fluids, a peer-reviewed scientific journal, showed that 40% to 60% of the total number of aerosol drops that may contain viruses can rise above the toilet seat during flush. The tallest reached up to about three feet off the ground.
The researchers recommend closing the toilet lid before flushing to avoid the possible spread of COVID-19. They also recommend cleaning the toilet seat before use and washing your hands carefully after flushing.
However, other experts warned that worrying about capturing COVID-19 from a toilet is probably out of the question because there are no documented cases of anyone actually getting infected this way.
“The transmission of infectious organisms from the plume of the toilet is a phenomenon that arises from time to time. While there have been no cases related to this type of transmission that I know of, it is biologically possible but probably low risk, “says Dr. Amesh Adajl, an infectious disease specialist at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health in Baltimore, Maryland.
In April 2020, a different study conducted at two hospitals in Wuhan found higher levels of virus particles in patients’ bathrooms than in hospital rooms.
“We know that this occurs from previous studies [prior to COVID-19]They show that if you put bacteria or viruses in a toilet bowl and flush the toilet, you can detect these infections around the bathroom, “says Dr. Todd Ellerin, a contributor to ABC News.
“Other studies have shown that COVID-19 can remain airborne for three hours after an infected patient has left the room,” said Ellerin, emphasizing that these studies did not prove that the virus particles found in the air were capable of infecting anyone.
The question is, should we adopt this practice, closing the lid when flushing the toilet?
What to know about the coronavirus:
“I think it is wise to close the lid when washing because it ejects particles that could fall onto common touch surfaces,” said Adajl.
Getting infected by inhaling viral COVID-19 particles from the toilet is probably “rare,” Adajl said, “and it’s not something I personally worry too much about.”
However, the experts stressed the importance of tried and true methods to prevent COVID-19 infection, including frequent hand washing and the use of face covers, especially in public toilets.
“It is also important to wash your hands after being in a public bathroom and refrain from touching your face,” said Adajl. And if you are at increased risk for COVID-19, Ellerin said it is a good idea to wear a mask in a public bathroom, as many are poorly ventilated.
Alexis E. Carrington, MD, who is currently completing her preliminary year of internal medicine at Elmhurst Hospital in New York City, is a contributor to the ABC News Medical Unit.