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Coronavirus and water: Truth and lies

About the blog

Águeda García de Durango
Editor-in-Chief of iAgua and Smart Water Magazine. Degree in Environmental Sciences.

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  • Coronavirus and water: Truth and lies

The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has made the frontpages of worldwide newspapers for weeks. Among the endless opinions about the virus’s expansion, cure and prevention, some have been directly linked to water resources.

For this reason, this blog post looks to clarify the veracity of such information based on data provided by The World Health Organization (WHO), as well as other official sources, without delving into the effect of the virus or other more scientific issues.

  • The coronavirus can be cured by eating and drinking garlic water: FALSE. As stated by the WHO, there is no evidence that eating garlic in any form protects humans against catching the coronavirus. Garlic, is of course, a healthy plant that may have some antimicrobial properties, but it is not useful in this case.

  • Children’s urine can protect against the new coronavirus: FALSE. According to the World Health Organization, urine does not eliminate bacteria. On the contrary, it can contain small amounts of viral or bacterial material. So, washing one’s hands with children’s urine or cleaning surfaces with it do not protect against VID-19.

  • Cold temperatures and snow can kill the coronavirus: FALSE. Regardless of outside temperatures or weather conditions, normal human body temperature ranges between 36.5°C and 37°C. Therefore, there is no reason to say that the virus (or other diseases) do not survive in cold weather, states the WHO.      

  • Coronavirus can be prevented by rinsing one’s nose with a saline solution: FALSE. There is no evidence that demonstrates that this practice can keep the infection away.
  • Spraying alcohol or chlorine all over the body kills the coronavirus: FALSE. This advice, besides being useless, is also dangerous. These substances can damage one’s clothes and mucous membranes (eyes, nose, mouth, etc). Alcohol and chlorine are used to disinfect surfaces (and always following the manufacturer’s recommendations).

The World Health Organization does recommend cleaning one’s hands frequently, which can also be done with a hydroalcoholic gel (hand sanitiser).

  • The best way to prevent the spread of the coronavirus is to wash one’s hands with soap and water: TRUE. Going back to what was previously mentioned, the most effective (and cheapest) way to prevent catching the virus is to wash your hands regularly with soap and water, killing the virus if it is already on your hands. The following infographic by WHO specifies how to correctly wash your hands:

Could the coronavirus be present in wastewater? According to the Water Environment Federation (WEF), recent information suggests that the COVID-19 may be transmitted through the fecal-oral route. The virus RNA was detected in patient stool after scientists noticed that some patients infected with the COVID-19 virus experienced diarrhoea in the early stages of infection instead of fever, the latter being more common.

In this respect, according to the United States Occupational and Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), COVID-19 is susceptible to the same conditions of disinfection in the sanitary environment as other viruses, so it is expected that disinfection in wastewater treatment facilities will be sufficient. There is no evidence to suggest that additional protection from the virus is needed for employees in wastewater management operations. Also, the OSHA recommends that workers manage solid waste contaminated with 2019-nCoV as they would other regulated medical waste in similar categories.

This WEF COVID-19 Water Professional’s Guide contains useful information on this subject.

Lastly, this WHO video provides the most complete information on the new coronavirus:

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