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‘COVID-19 is not transmitted through houseflies’, says WHO

By Akhil Reddy On May 8th, 2020

A video of Amitabh Bachchan is being shared widely on social media with a claim that a Chinese study has proved that houseflies can transmit COVID-19. It is also being claimed that the information has been recently confirmed by the Government of India. Let’s fact-check the claim made in the post.

The archived version of the post can be found here

Claim: Houseflies can transmit the COVID-19 virus.

Fact: WHO has already debunked the myth and clarified that there is no evidence to suggest that the COVID-19 virus is transmitted through houseflies. Also, it has clarified that the virus may be present in faeces in some cases but, to date, there have been no reports of faecal-oral transmission of COVID-19. Hence the claim made in the post is FALSE. 

When searched about the video, it was found that Amitabh Bachchan has tweeted the video on his Twitter account on 25 March 2020 with the following text – ‘A study in the @TheLancet shows that coronavirus lingers on human excreta much longer than in respiratory samples.’ The tweet has been deleted now, but it’s archived version can be seen here.

The study mentioned by Amitabh Bachchan can be found the Lancet website with the title – ‘Prolonged presence of SARS-CoV-2 viral RNA in faecal samples’. The study was conducted by collecting respiratory and faecal samples from 74 patients (out of enrolled 96 patients). The study mentions that ‘for over half of patients, their faecal samples remained positive for SARS-CoV-2 RNA for a mean of 11·2 days after respiratory tract samples became negative for SARS-CoV-2 RNA, implying that the virus is actively replicating in the patient’s gastrointestinal tract and that faecal–oral transmission could occur after viral clearance in the respiratory tract’.

But the study also mentions that ‘determining whether a virus is viable using nucleic acid detection is difficult; further research using fresh stool samples at later timepoints in patients with extended duration of faecal sample positivity is required to define transmission potential. No cases of transmission via the faecal–oral route have yet been reported for SARS-CoV-2, which might suggest that infection via this route is unlikely in quarantine facilities, in hospital, or while under self-isolation.’

The study concludes that ‘respiratory transmission is still the primary route for SARS-CoV-2 and evidence is not yet sufficient to develop practical measures for the group of patients with negative respiratory tract sample results but positive faecal samples. Further research into the viability and infectivity of SARS-CoV-2 in faeces is required.’ So, the study has neither mentioned that houseflies can transmit COVID-19 nor concluded that COVID-19 can be transmitted through the faecal-oral route.

Also, it was reported that when Lav Agarwal (Joint Secretary – Ministry of Health and Family Welfare) was asked about Amitabh Bachchan’s tweet, he replied, ‘I have not seen his tweet, but technically I can say that this is an infectious disease and does not spread through flies.’

WHO’s view:

On the WHO website, it can be read that ‘while initial investigations suggest the virus may be present in faeces in some cases, to date, there have not been reports of faecal-oral transmission of COVID-19’.

Regarding the houseflies, WHO has already debunked the myth and posted on its website that ‘to date, there is no evidence or information to suggest that the COVID-19 virus is transmitted through houseflies. The virus that cause COVID-19 spreads primarily through droplets generated when an infected person coughs, sneezes or speaks’. The same has also been tweeted by the Indian Government.

To sum it up, COVID-19 is not transmitted through houseflies.

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Originally published at Factly