By Emma Foster on Wed 08 April 2020
Discover more about the importance of solving water, sanitation, hygiene and waste management during the current global pandemic.
Solving Water During a Pandemic: What Could Be More Essential? by Dr. Stephanie A Smith
Any virus may be built from the two or more of the four principle macromolecules which we associate with life: proteins, nucleic acids, lipids, and carbohydrates. In the case of coronavirus, it consists of a single strand of ribonucleic acid (positive sense RNA), a lipid-based envelope and a protein capsid with specialized glycoprotein “spikes”. Glycoproteins are proteins containing some carbohydrate bits that help the virus attach to human respiratory tract cells, and in the case of coronavirus they may form the basis of a vaccine. Macromolecules alone do not make a cell, and activities like autonomous replication and repair, and responses to the external environment are something that cells do that viruses for the most part do not.
The only way viruses can replicate, build more of themselves, and truly respond is within the context of a host. They are obligated to a parasitic lifestyle and the consequence of a parasitic lifestyle is that when left to their own devices in the environment, viruses will eventually fall apart. Viruses don’t typically last long and how long depends on the virus and the environment. The impact of sunlight, dehydration, and temperature will eventually denature the virus and dose-dependent manner.
The provision of safe water, sanitation, and hygienic conditions is essential to protecting human health during all infectious disease outbreaks. In human history there are several waterborne illnesses that have been caused by viruses such as polio, hepatitis, and gastrointestinal viruses which can be transmitted through water contaminated with human or animal waste, for example. The survival of a virus in water depends on many of the standard water quality parameters which include temperature, pH, salinity, and organic matter to name a few.
So, can Coronavirus be contracted through water?
It is important to note that Coronavirus will not survive in properly treated water. The same practices we use every day to disinfect drinking water are highly effective against coronaviruses. The World Health Organisation have highlighted that: ‘Although persistence in drinking-water is possible, there is no evidence from surrogate human coronaviruses that they are present in surface or groundwater sources or transmitted through contaminated drinking water.’
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