News Stories

The Fatal Flush

While the latest SARS case in China escaped from a laboratory where it was being studied, most of last year's SARS epidemic wasn't spread from person to person?it was spread by one person flushing the toilet.

Amanda Gardner writes in abcnews.com that despite all the SARS research, scientists still can't figure out how the virus was transmitted so widely and quickly. Dr. Tak-sun Ignatius Yu says, "Future prevention and protection against SARS should take into consideration the possibility [that] airborne transmission avoidance of close contacts alone may not be adequate. The prevention of aerosolization of the virus source should take priority."

Yu studied the SARS outbreak at an apartment complex in Hong Kong where more than 300 people got the disease. He discovered that the "index patient," who introduced the disease to the buildings, used the bathroom in unit 7 on a middle floor of Building E on March 14 and March 19, 2003.

WHO investigators found that many traps in bathroom floor drains were dried out, meaning an exhaust fan could have drawn droplets from the drain pipe into the bathroom and then into an air shaft. From there, the contaminated air could have been carried into other apartments. When they constructed a model of the drainage system, the study authors found that large number of aerosol particles were drawn out by the flushing of the toilet.

"If the toilet overflows, you want it to go somewhere, so it makes sense to put drains in apartment buildings, but in this case it was a vulnerability," says Dr. Donald K. Milton. "One wonders if this is a pathway that we just have never noticed before, because it didn't hit us over the head the way it did in this case. But it's always been there in the background steadily doing something, and that's something interesting to speculate about."

But this doesn't explain how the virus traveled between buildings in the apartment complex. Researchers think this was caused by ordinary air movement.

Is the reason we have trouble understanding the world because we live in a Holographic Universe? This is considered by many to be among the most brilliant books ever written about the nature of scientific mysteries. In Confirmation, Whitley writes about Michael Talbot, who died tragically of cancer at the age of just 36, and left this as his great work.

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