Updated: Apr 5, 2020
On 11th March 2020 WHO declared COVID-19 as a pandemic, the first after H1N1 (2009). Soon after its outbreak in Wuhan, China in December 2019, COVID-19 has spread across the world in no time. One Asian country and six European countries are among the ten most affected list of countries with coronavirus, while more European countries are witnessing a surge in cases. As many as 11 European countries are among the top 15 countries with the highest number of coronavirus cases in the world.
This article discusses the pandemic and its impact on Water & Wastewater Utilities and Public Health Engineering Departments.
What are Coronaviruses and COVID-19?
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses which may cause illness in animals or humans. In humans, several coronaviruses are known to cause respiratory infections ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). The most recently discovered coronavirus causes coronavirus disease COVID-19.
COVID-19 is the infectious disease caused by the most recently discovered coronavirus. This new virus and disease were unknown before the outbreak began in Wuhan, China, in December 2019.
View the Current Status of Novel Coronavirus Pandemic HERE
How long does Coronavirus stay active?
It is not certain how long the virus that causes COVID-19 survives on surfaces, but it seems to behave like other coronaviruses. Studies suggest that coronaviruses (including preliminary information on the COVID-19 virus) may persist on surfaces for a few hours or up to several days. This may vary under different conditions (e.g. type of surface, temperature or humidity of the environment).
If you think a surface may be infected, clean it with simple disinfectant to kill the virus and protect yourself and others. Clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water. Avoid touching your eyes, mouth, or nose.
Is drinking tap water safe?
The World Health Organization (WHO) has stated that the, “presence of the COVID-19 virus has not been detected in drinking-water supplies and based on current evidence the risk to water supplies is low.”
Additionally, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), COVID-19 is mainly thought to spread between people who are in close contact with one another. Read more from the CDC about transmission of COVID-19. Most of the world’s water utilities drinking water regulations require treatment at public water systems to remove or kill pathogens, including viruses.
Do we need to boil drinking water?
Boiling your water is not required as a precaution against COVID-19.
Is tap water safe to use for hand washing?
It is safe to use, and drink tap water as usual. According to the WHO, washing your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds helps prevent the spread of COVID-19.
WHO has stated that the, “presence of the COVID-19 virus has not been detected in drinking-water supplies and based on current evidence the risk to water supplies is low.”
Homeowners that receive their water from a public water utility may contact their provider to learn more about treatments being used. Treatments could include filtration and disinfectants such as chlorine that remove or kill pathogens before they reach the tap.
Homeowners with private wells who are concerned about pathogens such as viruses in drinking water may consider approaches that remove bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens, including certified home treatment devices.
Do we need to buy bottled water or store drinking water?
It is safe to use, and drink tap water as usual. At this time, there are no indications that COVID-19 is in the drinking water supply or will affect the reliable supply of water.
Does Wastewater or Sewage spread COVID-19?
WHO has indicated that “there is no evidence to date that COVID-19 virus has been transmitted via sewerage systems, with or without wastewater treatment.”
Do wastewater treatment plants treat COVID-19?
Yes, wastewater treatment plants treat viruses and other pathogens. COVID-19 is a type of virus that is particularly susceptible to disinfection. Standard treatment and disinfectant processes at wastewater treatment plants are expected to be effective.
Does the septic system treat COVID-19?
While decentralized wastewater treatment (i.e., septic tanks) do not disinfect, EPA expects a properly managed septic system to treat COVID-19 the same way it safely manages other viruses often found in wastewater. Additionally, when properly installed, a septic system is located at a distance and location designed to avoid impacting a water supply well.
In 2008, a study on ‘Survival of Coronaviruses in Water and Wastewater’ was conducted at The University of Arizona, USA, states that, inactivation of coronaviruses in the test water and wastewater was highly dependent on temperature, level of organic matter, and presence of antagonistic bacteria. The time required for the virus titer to decrease 99.9% (T99.9) shows that in tap water, coronaviruses are inactivated faster in water at 23°C (10days) than in water at 4°C (>100days). Coronaviruses die off rapidly in wastewater, with T99.9 values of between 2 and 4days.
COVID-19 may be transmitted through the faecal-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 a fever, the latter being more common.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) said that “the risk of transmission of COVID-19 from the faeces of an infected person is also unknown”. However, it added, the risk is expected to be low based on data from previous outbreaks of related coronaviruses, such as SARS and the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS). There have been no reports of faecal-oral transmission of COVID-19 to date, CDC added.
During such times of global emergencies, it is recommended that citizens must not panic and must remain alert towards their personal hygiene. It is also important that citizens refrain themselves from believing in rumors in maintain Social Distancing. People should follow the simple guidelines proposed by WHO and other governmental organizations to ensure their own safety and safety of their near and dear ones.
Also Read: ‘Basic protective measures against the new coronavirus’ by WHO: https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public
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