Could there be an air of truth to the phrase "silent but deadly" when it comes to the spread of the coronavirus and the passing of flatulence?
This may seem like a silly question, but it has been making the rounds the past few days after the public comments of two Australian doctors.
The Australian Broadcasting Company puts out a podcast called the “Coronacast”, which is intended to answer questions and break down the latest news and research about the novel coronavirus pandemic. An episode aired on Friday, April 17, where Dr. Norman Swan was asked the question of whether or not the virus could spread through farts. Dr. Swan answered in a way that has led to a lot of speculation worldwide because he mentioned that farts could potentially spread the virus, and went as far as issuing a warning that no one should be "bare-bottom farting" near each other.
“Luckily, we wear a mask, which covers our farts all the time,” Swan said on the episode in reference to undergarments and on clothing our bottom half. “I think that what we should do in terms of social distancing and being safe is that … you don’t fart close to other people, and that you don’t fart with your bottom bare.”
Dr. Andy Tagg, an Australian ER physician, also weighed in on the subject of farts spreading the COCVID-19 virus and posted the following question on Twitter, “So, can the bottom-based emissions of someone with coronavirus be silent and deadly?"
This prompted a discussion on the subject, and Tagg shared quite an extensive amount of information about the GI tract, flatulence, and the whole gassy process—a “tweetorial”, as he dubbed it. (More of a "tootorial", if you ask us.)
Tagg came to the conclusion that though there's not an abundance of research done in the area—yes, the COVID-19 virus could potentially be spread through farts. He bases this conclusion on a few things; the SARS-CoV-2 virus can be spread through feces and it has been detected in asymptomatic patients up to 17 days past the point of exposure. As Tagg laments, without the published data and research to back it up, it cannot definitively be said that farts are a way of spreading the virus, however, he concludes that it's better to be safe than sorry.
The SARS virus is also coronavirus, and while a different disease than COVID-19, we can learn from it. The disease can be spread through fecal matter, so logic would say that other viruses and diseases can be spread that way. There is currently research being done to see how and if the virus is spread in raw sewage, as well as continued research into the spread through feces.
Dr. Aaron E. Glatt, a Mount Sinai South Nassau epidemiologist and professor of medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, backs this up. He wrote an email to The New York Post, stating:
"Studies have clearly shown that a significant percentage of COVID-19 patients do have GI [gastrointestinal] symptoms (alone, or in combination with respiratory or other general symptoms) at the time of illness presentation. However, there are no published data on whether flatulence alone presents any risk of transmission, although in a clothed person, it would be unlikely to be a significant route of transmission."
Medical professionals have cautioned against taking this information as fact and solid evidence. While it's something that's up for discussions and needs further research conducted, it is NOT the results of definitive and peer-reviewed research. Regardless of whether or not there's research specifically on the spread of COVID-19 though feces or flatulence, it is advisable to always practice good bathroom hygiene.
The Center for Disease Control reminds us that, in general, diseases can be spread many ways: germs enter the body through the mouth, eyes, genitals, nose, broken skin, and respiratory tract as well as sexual contact, feces, and through food and water.
What do think? Sound off in the comments below.