Ebola Q&A: What the CDC Says About Wastewater

The CDC answers Ebola questions. Learn more about transmission and direction for wastewater treatment plants.

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Editor's UpdateAccording to an Oct. 17 WEF press release, the CDC is preparing guidance for wastewater sector workers. The guidance, "Interim Guidance for Workers Handling Untreated Sewage from Ebola Cases in the United State," will address basic hygiene practices and personal protective equipment use and disposal actions that should be taken. The CDC states this review could be ready as early as late October. We will keep you updated as soon as we receive more information.

On Wednesday, Oct. 15, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention held an Ebola question and answer session on Facebook. Anyone could join the conversation, ask a question and then wait for a response from the CDC. The session lasted an hour, and the CDC attempted to answer as many questions as possible during that time.

Here at TPO, we realize many of you have questions and concerns about how the virus is transmitted and whether special precautions should be taken in sewer systems or wastewater treatment plants. We are waiting to receive an official statement from the CDC, but until then, we’d like to share these snippets from the Q&A session as they relate to wastewater, transmission and special precautions.

You can find the entire conversation at www.facebook.com/CDC.

Question: Could you address wastewater, specifically related to concerns from wastewater treatment plant operators.

CDC Answer: CDC is working with the EPA to provide more guidance. Wastewater treatment workers should wear normal personal protective equipment as provided by their employer.

Question: How do we know our drinking water won’t be affected by bodily fluids flushed … isn’t this an unknown?

CDC Answer: Sanitary sewers may be used for the safe disposal of patient waste. Additionally, sewage handling processes (e.g., anaerobic digestion, composting and disinfection) in the United States are designed to inactivate infectious agents.

Question: How long does the virus live on surfaces?

CDC Answer: Ebola virus is killed with EPA-registered hospital disinfectants. Ebola virus dried on surfaces such as doorknobs and countertops can survive for several hours; however, virus in body fluids (such as blood) can survive up to several days at room temperature.

Question: Is Ebola airborne?

CDC Answer: Ebola cannot be transmitted through the air. It is not a respiratory disease like the flu. Ebola virus is spread through direct contact with the blood or body fluids (including but not limited to feces, saliva, sweat, urine, vomit and semen) of a person who is sick with Ebola.

Question: Is mutation possible?

CDC Answer: Mutation of Ebola to an airborne disease is not likely. Ebola is a very stable virus with a very slow mutation rate. Scientists have no reason to believe that a mutation like this is likely or even possible.


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