Fears over the spread of coronavirus (known as COVID-19) have intensified with Hong Kong health officials investigating the possible transmission of the virus through plumbing.
According to CNN, a high-rise apartment block called Hong Mei House was partially evacuated this week when a 75-year-old man and 62-year-old woman who lived ten floors apart were diagnosed with COVID-19 within 10 days of each other.
The woman’s son and his wife, who share her Hong Mei House apartment, were also infected with the disease.
Authorities evacuated all residents who shared pipes with the apartments of those infected to investigate the plumbing.
Officials quickly reassured the public that the building’s sewage system was safe but revealed that one of the infected tenant’s had altered their plumbing.
“A preliminary investigation revealed that the 307-room unit in which the second patient lived may have done self-refitting exhaust pipes,” said Frank Chan, Hong Kong’s housing minister, in a press conference.
While it was ruled out in this instance, the transmission of coronavirus via plumbing isn’t out of the question. The 2003 outbreak of SARS saw more than 300 infections and 42 deaths in a Hong Kong housing estate after faulty pipes allowed the virus to spread.
At this time, scientists still believe that COVID-19 spreads through direct contact or the droplets released when an infected person sneezes or coughs.
Is quarantine effective against coronavirus?
Meanwhile in Japan, there are currently 219 confirmed cases of coronavirus on board the cruise ship Diamond Princess, according to the ABC.
44 passengers were diagnosed on February 13 alone, despite the fact that the ship has been under quarantine since February 4.
One of the diagnosed was a quarantine officer who was tasked with collecting completed questionnaires from passengers.
While experts think these people were already infected before the quarantine began, it still casts doubt over whether this disease can be quarantined at all.
At this point, experts recommend that you regularly wash your hands or use sanitiser when soap and water aren’t available.
The current health crisis is evolving rapidly. If you suspect you or a family member has coronavirus you should call (not visit) your GP or ring the national Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080.