Wednesday 2 December, 2020

Clearing the air on whether COVID-19 can be spread by flatulence

Yo Cayman... Catch a whiff a dis... 

The latest detail about coronavirus to catch my attention is, to me, the most terrifying. There has been a new scientific discovery surrounding how individuals can contract COVID-19.

Through farts.

Yes, you read that right the first time.

Coronavirus may be spreading through flatulence, passing gas, releasing wind or whatever your granny taught you to say as a child. I really didn’t want to be the bearer of stink news (pun intended) but this might be the last thing Caribbean people want to hear.

According to Molecular Biologist, Chairul Anwar Nidom at Airlangga University in Indonesia, the matching protein receptor, called ACE2, is normally found in several human organs– the lungs, kidneys, heart and the gut, which means that it is possible that the virus could be spread via flatulence. The hypothesis was tested and confirmed at the Harbin Veterinary Research Institute in China, using dogs and cats. The Molecular Biologist explained that the researchers were conducting swab tests through the dogs’ anus – instead of through the nose and throat.

There is a little mischievous Jamaican kid living inside me that grins at the very mention of the word fart... but this is no laughing matter.

Australian podcast host Dr Norman Swan also advised, as hilarious as it might sound, that there should be “no bare-bottom farting," indicating the presence of faecal particles that might be released when passing gas. Dr Swan went on to say that "luckily we wear a mask (clothes), which covers our farts all the time. I think what we should do in terms of social distancing and being safe is that… you don’t fart close to other people and that you don’t fart with your bottom bare.”

Australian physician Dr Andy Tagg pondered whether flatulence itself is an aerosol-generating procedure, to which he concluded yes, showing that the coronavirus had been found in the faeces of 55 per cent of COVID-19 patients and that "small faeces particles like 'aerosolized faeces' among fart gases could also spread the virus."

Another study suggested that the gush of air from a toilet flush could be cause for concern in spreading coronavirus via “aerosolized faeces”.

There isn’t enough data or research as yet to fully substantiate how risky passing gas is during this pandemic. Our social distancing rules for limiting passengers in a vehicle, standing 6 feet apart and limiting public gatherings will prove helpful should this become a threat.

In the meantime, Caribbean people might want to lay off the Sunday rice and peas... at least for now.

The pairing of COVID-19 and farts would be a terrifying duo and would give new meaning to the term silent but deadly.

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