COVID-19 Shocker: Coronavirus Could Live In Water And Spread Disease

The novel coronavirus may not only spread through droplets when people sneeze or cough. Experts said water, especially in beaches, could also be contaminated with the virus that causes COVID-19.

The beach can be a good place for the virus to infect people. The coronavirus could travel to areas where ocean water mixes with untreated and contaminated wastewater, according to Kimberly Prather, director of the NSF Center for Aerosol Impacts on Chemistry of the Environment. 

There have been reports that the novel coronavirus can stay in the feces of COVID-19 patients even after recovery. Wastewater could bring a certain amount of the virus in the poop to the ocean.

Prather said the waves could then aerosolize the virus and the wind could carry it back to shore and expose beachgoers. Previous reports showed that bacteria in the water contributes to over 90 million cases of respiratory, gastrointestinal, ear, eye and skin-related diseases annually across the U.S.,  WebMD reported Thursday.

Coronaviruses could survive in the water for two to three days, according to Charles Gerba, a professor of microbiology and immunology at the University of Arizona. However, he noted more research is needed to confirm whether COVID-19 can spread from feces.

“I’d be more worried about hepatitis, swimming in raw sewage discharge, or many of the other pathogens,” Gerba said. “They present a far greater magnitude of risk, even if it turns out that coronavirus is transmitted by water.”

He added that the coronavirus is unlikely to appear in freshwater if it remains well maintained with chlorine. There is also no evidence of the virus getting into people through drinking tap water. 

Prather agreed that water poses less threat amid the COVID-19 pandemic. But she said beaches could still put people at risk of contracting the coronavirus because of close physical contacts.

“My concern was that at the beach where it is breezy, 6 feet [of social distancing] might not be enough,” Prather said. “If someone is infected and does not know it, it is possible they will breathe out aerosols, not droplets, which are much smaller and can be carried further distances in the breeze.”

She suggested that people maintain a social distance similar to how far they would stand from a smoker to avoid the smell of the smoke. Prather said the aerosols in smoke “will behave in a similar manner” with the coronavirus. 

Beach & COVID-19 Experts said that the novel coronavirus that causes the COVID-19 could reach the ocean and potentially infect people going to the beach. Pixabay