When a big city is in crisis, a state can step in
Grist article German cities are experiencing a surge in water contamination as the country grapples with an unprecedented number of new outbreaks of coronavirus, according to new studies.
The German cities of Hamburg, Dortmund, Dusseldorf, Cologne and Cologne have experienced a total of 21 new cases in less than a week, while Hamburg recorded a new outbreak of coronacovirus in just one week.
Hamburg has the second-highest rate of coronaval-related cases in Germany, after the German capital Berlin.
The study, published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that at least 2,300 people in Hamburg were exposed to contaminated water, according the World Health Organization.
The number of people in those affected neighborhoods has risen to more than 3,000.
“It’s definitely a problem,” said Thomas Riesner, a microbiologist at the University of Wuppertal in Germany who studies waterborne viruses.
“What we are seeing in Hamburg is a massive increase in waterborne illness, in terms of the number of cases.”
The study’s authors said the uptick is not unexpected, since coronaviruses tend to circulate quickly in urban areas.
“The trend is probably related to the high population density in the city and the high concentration of water in the municipal water systems,” said study author Matthias Zwilling.
“But it could also be linked to a number of different factors that have been taking place over the last couple of weeks.”
Water is the main source of transmission for the virus.
But some water systems are failing, which could allow a virus to enter local drinking water.
In some cases, water systems have become infected with the virus and become infected themselves, as in the case of the Bavarian city of Heidelberg.
There, more than 400,000 people were served with a cease-and-desist order from the state of Bavaria in October, but only one person has tested positive.
Zwill said the latest cases could have been caused by a lack of disinfectant in the water system.
Water treatment plants, such as those in Berlin and Munich, are also failing.
The Bavarian state health minister said Thursday that he was concerned about the spread of coronaccosis in the country.
In an interview with the newspaper Die Zeit, Bavarian health minister Christian Schmidt said the state has no evidence yet that a specific water treatment plant was responsible for the outbreak.
“That would be extremely hard to prove,” Schmidt said.
“We don’t know if it is the result of a mistake, a leak, a malfunction, a mistake by the company or someone else.”
The state health authority said that the Bavarians treatment plant at the time of the outbreak had been disinfected.
A spokesman for the state health agency said it had no information about the incident at the facility.
German media reported that the plant was shut down for two weeks while authorities investigated.
In Hamburg, the number is still rising.
On Tuesday, the state said that more than 100 people had tested positive for the coronaviral strain and that the city was treating 1,200 of them.
The mayor of the German city of Dresden said that he believed that about one in five residents had tested negative.