The virus can apparently be spread in the droplets of water that spray out of an open toilet. 

Research has been done recently showing that COVID-19 can spread through feces, as well as live on in the digestive tract of those who have the virus. One study even suggested that coronavirus could potentially be spread through human farts.

Well, it seems a bathroom is a place ripe with opportunity for the virus to spread, and scientists are learning more about the novel coronavirus every day. According to a new study titled "Can a toilet promote virus transmission? From a fluid dynamics perspective," the coronavirus can be spread by flushing toilets. In particular, open toilets and those without lids—like those in many public restrooms here in the United States—risk spreading the virus. 

Published in the journal Physics of Fluids, the study shows how flushing a toilet without a lid can create an aerosol cloud, containing droplets that can spread through the air.

Researchers used a computer-based simulation to create multiple volume-of-fluid models to show how far particles can go during the flushing process, in both single and double inlet toilets. Additionally, the study team referred to previous research done on the spread of diseases, as well as literature on toilets and the air cloud created by flushing. 

Flushing a toilet causes strong turbulence inside the bowl, sending aerosol particles out of the toilet bowl. These droplets can be flung as high as three feet in the air, according to the study. In fact, 40 to 60 percent of these aerosol particles reach above the toilet seat after flushing. The droplets are small enough that they can float in the air for longer than one minute—plenty of time for the virus to spread. 

"One can foresee that the velocity will be even higher when a toilet is used frequently, such as in the case of a family toilet during a busy time or a public toilet serving a densely populated area," said co-author Ji-Xiang Wang, of Yangzhou University.

The study raises the real possibility that the virus could be spread through the use of toilets, though there have been few other studies done on this particular mode of transmission. Also, only vertical airflow was studied, and further research on horizontal airflow is needed, according to Ji-Xiang Wang.

public restroom

Image courtesy of Pixabay

The good news is that it seems that simply closing the toilet lid will prevent the spray of particles from getting into the air. Also, cleaning the toilet with disinfectants before use, as well as washing hands after use, is always a good idea.

This study does bring up a whole slew of questions regarding how we will move forward with the use of public restrooms and communal toilets. Clearly there will need to be some changes in how we go about using the restroom in workplaces, schools, and other public places where numerous strangers are using the same toilet. Some serious food for thought. 

What do you think about all this information? Do you feel comfortable using public restrooms after this? Sound off in the comments.