Coronavirus in tap water
The Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic has changed the world and only time will tell how this global crisis will play out through 2020 and possibly beyond.
World Health Organisation figures sourced at the time of writing show that more than 15 million people had been infected by the novel coronavirus Covid-19 and more than 600,000 had died. Meanwhile, in the UK, up until the end of July 2020, more than 45,000 people had lost their lives and over 300,000 cases had been confirmed.
For those who have survived, some have found their lives radically altered by the respiratory illness, particularly those who have spent weeks in induced comas on ventilators. Negative effects have included muscle wastage and reduced lung capacity. These patients are now facing long roads to recovery and the daunting prospect of whether a full recovery is even possible.
At the start of pandemic, the UK government’s advertising campaigns urged people to wash their hands regularly to help prevent the spread of the virus.
However, research published by the Chinese Centre for Disease Control a month before the UK went into lockdown in March 2020 also suggested that the virus could survive through human waste, which meant that failing to wash one’s hands after using the toilet could lead to transmission and infection. Indeed, the UK government says that all secretions (except sweat) but including diarrhoeal stools from infected or potentially infected people should be considered potentially infectious.
Researchers in Paris, France, also investigated how Covid-19 could survive in faeces from wastewater. Having taken samples between March and April, scientists found higher concentrations of the virus’s genetic material in certain sewers ten days before the first Covid-19-related deaths were reported in Paris. This early indicator meant that continuing to test wastewater could help authorities predict further outbreaks.
So can Covid-19 survive in water, which has already gone through the various disinfection and cleaning processes of a water treatment plant? The World Health Organisation says there is no evidence to date that the virus has been transmitted via sewerage systems with or without wastewater treatment. The WHO also states that the virus has not been found in drinking water supplies, and that based on the current evidence, the risk to water supplies is low.
Authorities such as the United States Centre for Disease Control CDC have therefore said that consumers can continue to drink tap water as normal.
However, it is worth considering that the science about this new virus continues to develop daily – and so it will be important for consumers to continue to weigh up any new evidence as and when it comes to their attention.