- Health officials in Hong Kong are looking into a new cause of infection of the Wuhan coronavirus after two people, who live ten floors apart, were tested positive for the coronavirus, CNN reported.
- The two residents, who live in the same building, are connected via the toilet system – prompting speculation over whether this caused the spread.
- SARS also spread via faecal matter during its 2003 outbreak in Hong Kong. Hundreds of people in the city died in that outbreak.
- Authorities have since evacuated residents from the Hong Kong building. There have been 50 recorded cases of the coronavirus in Hong Kong, according to the South China Morning Post.
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Hong Kong health authorities are investigating whether the Wuhan coronavirus can be spread via communal sewage systems after two households living ten floors apart reported positive for the disease, CNN reported.
A 62-year-old woman as found with the deadly virus about a week-and-a-half after a 75-year-old man, who lives above her in the same building, became infected, CNN reported. They both live in Hong Mei House, a 35-floor building in the larger social-housing Cheung Hong Estate in Tsing Yi.
The virus has since spread to the woman’s son and his wife, who live with her, and the wife’s father, CNN reported.
Authorities have since evacuated more than 100 people living in Hong Mei House, whose apartments are all connected to the same sewage pipe system, the South China Morning Post (SCMP) and Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported.
Health experts also launched an investigation on Tuesday, but emphasised that the cause behind the two cases remain unclear.
“We are not sure what was the exact route of transmission. It could still be through the usual method of droplets or contact,” said Dr. Wong Ka-hing, controller at Hong Kong’s Centre for Health Protection, according to AFP.
Hong Kong Housing Minister Frank Chan said Tuesday that the city’s public sewage system is safe, but pointed to an alteration that had been made to one of the toilets, CNN reported. Tenants of public housing were only allowed to make adjustments to their sewage pipes in 2016, SCMP reported.
An initial inspection into the estate’s sewage system found that a pipe in the woman’s apartment unit had been disconnected from the bathroom’s main waste pipe, CNN reported.
Generally speaking, improperly-sealed pipes could result in virus transmission by carrying infected faeces into the building’s ventilation system, and blowing it into people’s bathrooms, CNN cited microbiologist Yuen Kwok-yung as saying Tuesday.
Though the coronavirus primarily causes fever or difficulty breathing, some patients have been experiencing diarrhoea, prompting speculation that it could be spread through faecal matter, Business Insider’s Morgan McFall-Johnsen reported Tuesday.
Fears over the new potential cause of spread came as Hong Kong recorded its 50th coronavirus case on Wednesday, the South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported.
Densely-populated Hong Kong is on alert for the spread of cases, with officials mindful that 33 of the 299 people who died in the city during the 2003 SARS outbreak lived in the same apartment complex.
Later studies found that one cause of the spread in apartment complexes – like Amoy Gardens in Kowloon, where 329 people were infected – was via sewage.
One 59-year-old resident of Hong Mei House, who wasn’t named, told AFP Tuesday: “Of course I’m scared. I live with my son, daughter-in-law, grandchildren and my husband.”
“We seldom go out already because we don’t have enough masks,” she said, referring to the city’s shortage of face masks due to the virus. “I don’t allow my grandchildren to play in the hallway. Now we can’t even stay at home.”
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