A commuter wears a mask while riding the New York City Subway as the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues in the Manhattan borough of New York, April 30, 2020.
There’s not much evidence to back-up a widely circulated theory that flatulence can spread COVID-19, a top CDC official told members of the private sector on a Monday phone call, the audio of which was obtained by Politico.
“I know at least one tabloid in the UK got a lot of coverage by someone speculating that Covid-19 could be spread by flatulence or, to quote the headline, by farting. There really is not a lot of science behind that,” the official said.
With that said, the CDC says that the virus has been detected in the fecal matter of infected people, and the federal government is looking at wastewater as a potential means of tracing COVID-19.
The CDC’s website says it’s “unclear whether the virus found in feces may be capable of causing COVID-19,” adding that there hasn’t been “any confirmed report of the virus spreading from feces to a person.”
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It’s unlikely that your farts are spreading coronavirus, according to a top official at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Jay Butler, the deputy director for infectious diseases at the CDC, discussed the theory on Monday during a phone call with representatives from the private sector, per audio of the call reviewed by Politico.
It came up after Butler was asked a question about wastewater, which the federal government is looking at as a potential means of tracing the spread of the novel coronavirus.
“There is not a lot of evidence of transmission through stools,” Butler said. “I know at least one tabloid in the UK got a lot of coverage by someone speculating that Covid-19 could be spread by flatulence or, to quote the headline, by farting. There really is not a lot of science behind that.”
Though Butler dismissed the prospect of spreading COVID-19 by passing gas, he went on to say that the virus can sometimes be present in human waste and that raises the “intriguing possibility…that wastewater could potentially be monitored for the presence of the RNA (the genetic material of the virus) as a marker for whether or not it’s in the community.”
“If you’re new to public health, that may seem really odd but that’s actually a practice that’s been done for literally decades to look for reemergence of polio viruses in parts of the world where polio has been eradicated,” Butler added.
The notion that breaking wind could spread COVID-19 has been circulating in various media reports in recent weeks. An April 11 article from the British tabloid Daily Star titled “Coronavirus ‘could be spreading across the globe through farts’ claim doctors,” which Butler appeared to reference in the Monday phone call, has been widely shared on social media.
But while there’s still much to learn about COVID-19, which was only identified as a new virus in January, there’s no substantial evidence that passing gas could contribute to the spread and Butler is not the only public health expert to throw cold water on the theory.
The CDC’s website confirms that the virus has been found in the fecal matter of some infected patients, but said it’s “unclear whether the virus found in feces may be capable of causing COVID-19,” adding that there hasn’t been “any confirmed report of the virus spreading from feces to a person.”
“Scientists also do not know how much risk there is that the virus could be spread from the feces of an infected person to another person,” the CDC states. “However, they think this risk is low based on data from previous outbreaks of diseases caused by related coronaviruses, such as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS).”
Similarly, the World Health Organization says there have not been any reports of fecal-oral transmission of COVID-19.
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