Wednesday, March 15, 2017

New commentary up at ES&T with Nathalia and Dr. Krista Wigginton from the University of Michigan.

Research Needs for Wastewater Handling in Virus Outbreak Response

In response to the 2014/15 Ebola virus disease (EVD) epidemic, both the World Health Organization and the United States Centers for Disease Control advised direct disposal of Ebola-contaminated liquid waste into sewage systems (wastewater collection and treatment systems) and latrines without disinfection.(1) This recommendation was made due to the presumed short survival of the enveloped Ebola virus in the environment, expected inactivation and dilution in wastewater systems, and the perceived hazards of additional waste handling and toxic byproduct formation due to chlorine addition. Subsequently, concern was raised regarding appropriate handling of Ebola virus contaminated liquid waste and the potential for secondary (environmental) transmission of the disease. Key unknowns that fueled this uncertainty included the environmental persistence of Ebola virus, efficacy of disinfection approaches against Ebola virus, and potential for exposure to Ebola virus within wastewater infrastructure. Ultimately, studies found that Ebola virus persisted longer than expected in the wastewater environment with an approximate T90 (time for 90% inactivation) of 2.1 days in sterilized wastewater.(2) While the most recent Ebola virus outbreak has ended, this experience has exposed a critical shortcoming in knowledge and regulation about appropriate handling of wastewater contaminated with highly infectious pathogens, such as Ebola virus, in both resource-rich and resource-poor outbreak settings.

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