We have learnt a lot about how to break the transmission chain of SARS-CoV-2 by rapid testing, vaccination, sanitization, social distancing, social networking, etc. However, the conversation over SARS-CoV-2 transmission is still remnants. The two primary transmission routes of SARS-CoV-2 have been reported. The first route is respiratory droplets in the form of aerosols produced during sneezing or coughing by covid patients. The second route is the direct contact-transmission via droplets that might settle on the surface. In India, discharge of untreated sewage into rivers is a common practice, which may lead to contamination of river water by sewage tainted by coronavirus (COVID) infected patients' dead bodies, faeces and urines.
The outbreak of a novel COVID-19 began at the end of December 2019 and the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 quickly expanded worldwide. In the second week of May 2021, India was broken by a record of 380,000 new infections and over 4100 fatalities per day. Since March 14, 2020, India has reported 20.3 million cases with 20 million recoveries and over 0.25 million fatalities (Dong et al., 2020). The government promptly responded to the Covid-19 threat last year (i.e., 2020) and its preventing measure was ranked the most stringent in the world, exceeding countries like the USA, UK, and Germany, etc. (Yadav et al., 2020). In this year, however, the hospitals are overburdened, and health care staffs are exhausted and becoming infected. The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation estimates around 1 million mortality from COVID-19 in India by Aug 1, 2021 (Editor 2021).
According to the Central Pollution Control Board of India, around 38000 million L/day of sewage is generated. However, only 12000 million L/day is treated. This means sewage as much as 26000 million L/day is discharged without proer treatment into rivers, groundwater or lakes. The untreated wastewater is a major source of water pollution in India . The discharge of COVID-19-infected patients' faeces and urine may be the primary root of SARS-CoV-2 transmission to wastewater and freshwater (Tran et al, 2020). A potential link of water and wastewater was reported in the outbreak of SARS in Hong Kong owing to a defective sewage system in 2003 (Peiris, et al., 2003).
The first time SARS-CoV-2 was reported in natural water of Sabarmati-river and two ponds in Gujarat (India Today 2021). In May month SARS-CoV-2 was reported in Ganga river sewage dumping water points and wastewater samples Hyderabad, Mumbai and Lucknow (News18., 2021).
Ccoronavirus-19-suspected dead bodies were reported in Ganga river at Buxar-Bihar and Runj river in Nandanpur, Panna, M.P., India (Thehindu 2021). The shortage of wood and hefty price of firewood (Rs 5000-30000) has led poor families to jettison dead bodies into the river instead of cremating them. It has been also reported that with the rising death tolls in India, the dead corpses are being buried on the banks of rivers. A large fraction of the population in India depends on rivers for irrigation and domestic water supply; hence, it might be a substantial source of covid-19 transmission.
The first instance of SARS-CoV-2 RNA detection in wastewater was reported in Japan when the cases of covid-19 were quite high (Zheng et al., 2020). The traces of SARS-CoV-2 also have been detected recently in medical wastewater, sewage or municipality wastewater, wastewater treatment plant sludge, wastewater from ships and aircrafts (Tran et al., 2020). In the urban waterways of Quito, where raw sewage was released into the nearby river and the SARS-COV-2 was detected in river water (Guerrero-Latorre etal., 2020). Recent studies have investigated infectious SARS-CoV-2 from stool samples and revealed that SARS-CoV-2 in the stool could survive (17-31 days) longer than respiratory tract (11-21 days) (Zheng et al., 2020). A similar study was reported in China. The Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CCDC) isolated live SARS-CoV-2 from the patient’s stool samples even after 15 days of infection (Bhowmick, et al., 2019). Urine was also considered as a possible means of transmission. However, it has been reported that SARS-CoV-2 is rarely detected in urine of infected individuals (Kashi, et al., 2020).
The pandemic did not give individuals any option other than wearing a face mask at public places in order to protect themselves from the respiratory disease (4). These may be commercially available cloth masks, and surgical masks. Certain people even employ self-tailored masks according to the guidelines provided by the healthcare experts (Feng, et al., 2020). The used masks also should be considered as the medical waste. Therefore, their improper and unmanaged disposal is also a serious threat to the environment and human health (Tran, et al.,2020). These used facial masks are not classified as hazardous wastes in developing countries that are swamped by infections. However, their improper and unmanaged disposal is further expanding SARS-CoV-2 transmission. Some investigations have also shown that the untreated disposal of the used face masks into surface waters might result in a new route of transmission in the near future (Kalina, & Tilley, 2020).
The persistence of COVID-19 in water bodies and wastewaters can be accounted by various biotic and abiotic factors including temperature, antagonistic bacterial population and organic matter concentration. Coronaviruses may survive 10 days at 23 °C and more than 100 days at 4 °C (Gundy et al., 2020). The presence of suspended solids and organic matter in the water renders the virus their surfaces and increases the survival of the virus by providing it protection against possible environment disinfectants (Zhang, et al., 2020). An increase in the concentration of organic matter contaminants from tap water to wastewater may thus enhance the likelihood of a longer persistence of coronavirus.
As the active number of COVID-19 cases increases in India, the chances of contamination of rivers with untreated sewage from hospitals, covid centres and domestic sewage (home isolation), and corpses are also increasing. To grasp the SARSCoV-2 transmission channels, we need additional research. Clear and more effective guidance can be provided on the basis of new research in order to face the pandemic outbreak in India.
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