Wastewater a possible exposure route for Ebola

Microbial risk-assessment and virology researchers who have been testing the resilience of the Ebola virus to better understand how it can be contained recently discovered that it can survive in wastewater longer than previously thought.

"Initial research by the WHO and CDC recommended disposing of Ebola-contaminated liquid waste into a latrine or treatment system without disinfection because the virus wasn't expected to persist in wastewater," Kyle J. Bibby, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Pittsburgh's Swanson School of Engineering and principal investigator of the study, said. "However, we found that the virus persisted over a period of at least eight days."

The study, titled “Persistence of Ebola Virus in Sterilized Wastewater,” was recently published in the Environmental Science & Technology Letters journal. It was conducted in conjunction with the University of Pittsburgh, Drexel University and the National Institutes of Health.

"These results demonstrate a greater persistence of Ebola virus in wastewater than previously speculated," Charles Haas, co-author of the study, said. "While the Ebola virus was found to be generally less persistent than enteric viruses in wastewater, the identified survival period might suggest a potential of a wastewater exposure route."

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National Institutes of Health

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