According to WHO, ineffective U-trap seals in the drainpipes of Amoy Garden apartments triggered the SARS outbreak. These traps, often called P- traps in the U.S., are designed to hold water at all times. The water acts as a barrier and prevents insects, foul smells, and in this case, viruses and bacteria from backing up through the drains.
"Every U.S. plumbing fixture--a toilet, sink, bathtub or floor drain--uses a P-trap in its drainpipe. When the P-trap failed in the Amoy Garden apartment complex in Hong Kong, the plumbing system, in effect, acted as a transportation system for the virus to spread quickly through the building," said Larry Rothman, master plumber with Roto-Rooter Services Co.
Roto-Rooter reports that the plumbing systems in American homes and apartment buildings use P-traps similar to those in Hong Kong. While U.S. health department officials have taken aggressive steps to prevent a SARS outbreak here, Roto-Rooter also advises that property owners keep drains and P-traps clean in order to stop the spread of disease. Visit the WHO Web site at www.who.int for more information on the spread of SARS.