SARS-CoV-2 Transmissibility: Can You Really Catch COVID-19 through Flatulence (Farts)?

The possibility that Covid can be contracted through flatulence seems highly unlikely, as clothing also acts as a filter.

SARS-CoV-2 is known to be spread through droplets released during talking, sneezing or coughing. On 6 April 2020, Australian doctor Andy Tagg asked on Twitter whether flatulence could also be a vector for the spread of the virus. Since the virus has been found in stool the doctor said it is possible that the virus is also spread through farts, but this has not yet been confirmed.

Flatulence

Flatulence

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The WHO classifies the risk of infection through feces as “low”

The presence of fecal matter in flatulence suggests that farts may be a vector for the virus. However, although coronavirus has been found in the feces of some infected people, according to the US health authorities, “fecal-oral transmission has not been confirmed”. In addition, there is currently no evidence that the viral material in the stool is infectious. The World Health Organisation, therefore, considers the risk of infection with Covid-19 through contact with the feces of an infected person to be “low”. However, as there is a risk, the WHO recommends that people wash their hands regularly after using the toilet and before eating.

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Past outbreaks of coronavirus, such as SARS and MERS, give an indication of the risk posed by the current pandemic. On this basis, the US authorities say the risk appears minimal. However, during the 2003 SARS outbreak in Hong Kong, there were cases of the virus being transmitted through aerosols in the sewage system. “Where plumbing is modern today, this form of spread is also unlikely because feces are flushed down the toilet and the system prevents gases from rising back,” Dr William Schaffner, medical director of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases and professor of infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University, told USA Today.

Clothing acts as a mask

In addition to the potential transmission of the virus through fecal matter and thus flatulence, clothing acts as a filter and prevents aerosols from escaping, similar to masks. “Social distancing is also important and, frankly, it is a good rule of life ethics not to pass wind around other people,” adds Ravina Kullar, an infectious disease expert at the American Society of Infectious Diseases.

In short, it seems highly unlikely that the virus could be spread through flatulence. “While it is theoretically possible, there is no evidence of this happening so far,” she said.

In short, wearing a mask and staying away from large gatherings especially indoors remains the two best strategies.

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References

Fact check: We know about coughs and sneezes. But can coronavirus spread through farts?

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