Last week, British ministers made the headlines with wild claims that COVID could potentially be spread through flatulence. Their serious concerns may be hilarious to some people, but it’s not an entirely bizarre theory.
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How is COVID transmitted?
By now, everyone is aware that COVID is transmitted through tiny droplets that are generated when an infected individual talks or laughs with another person. Additionally, other confirmed methods of transmission include coughing, sneezing, and the exchange of saliva.
However, researchers have been constantly trying to investigate other viable modes of transmission—including flatulence, especially given that COVID has already been detected in faeces.
A 2020 study published by experts at an Indian university found that farts ‘do have the tendency to carry micro-particles which have the capacity to spread bacteria’ but whether or not that applies to COVID is still unknown.
Is it ‘theoretically possible’ to spread COVID by farting?
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the risk of catching COVID through contact with the faeces of an infected person is relatively low, but the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has said that there is no evidence showing that a faecal-oral transmission is possible.
Dr. William Schaffner, professor of infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University said during an interview with USA Today that it may be theoretically possible, but it has never been demonstrated before. A study published in the The British Medical Journal noted that even if flatulence were to spread the virus, our clothes act as an automatic barrier.
Surprisingly enough, at the start of the pandemic, researchers at the Tongzhou Control and Prevention Centre in China said that while farting was not a mode of transmission, it might be able to spread ‘if a person is naked’ or if they emit an exceptionally large amount of gas.