Streamline - Spring 2015 - (Page 13)

Flushing Away the Ebola Threat BY DONNA LAWSON, WASTEWATER OPERATIONS SPECIALIST AS THE SAYING GOES, "it all rolls downhill" and everything put down the drain ends up at the sewer plant. Bacteria, viruses and other disease causing agents have been winding up at the local wastewater treatment plant since wastewater treatment plants have existed. That is what treatment plants are all about, using microscopic organisms to break down organic matter (think household waste, oil and grease, ammonia, etc.) to harmless solids and disease free discharge water. As wastewater leaves homes and businesses it is collected and sent to the wastewater treatment plant. This is done mainly through the use of collection lines and pump stations. Once it enters the treatment plant, the waste stream is subject to solids separation, biological treatment and then disinfection. At any point in this process, a wastewater operator is subject to contagion from any number of possible disease causing organisms. So what is different about the Ebola virus that would warrant a change in protocol? For starters, the Ebola virus disease has nearly a 90 percent fatality rate. The virus (one of five types) was first identified in 1976 near the Ebola River in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Since then, sporadic outbreaks have occurred mainly in the western part of Africa. The recent outbreak during the summer and fall of 2014 is the worst in history, causing nearly 9,000 deaths. The World Health Organization's chief, Margaret Chan, admitted that the UN agency had been caught napping; "Never again should the world be caught by surprise, unprepared". A resolution was adopted at the end of the World Health Fair in Geneva (January 25th, 2015) to create a contingency fund of $100 million as "a good starting point". Other goals resulting from the summit include faster recruitment, deployment of frontline workers in future emergencies, and the development of safe, effective and affordable vaccines and treatments. Ebola virus disease (EVD) is a disease of humans and other primates caused by the Ebola viruses. Fruit bats are thought to be the normal carrier in nature and are probably introduced into the population by handling and consuming raw or impartially cooked bats or other infected animals. The virus spreads by direct contact with body fluids, such as blood, spit, semen, breast milk, sweat, or feces. The virus is not known to be spread through airborne contagion such as the flu or cold virus. Once contracted, signs and symptoms normally start from two days to three weeks with flu like symptoms of fever, sore throat, muscle pain, and headaches. The second set of symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea and rash (large blisters), coupled with a decreased kidney and liver function. Internal and external bleeding may also follow with death caused by extreme loss of body fluids. An individual is infectious with the onset of symptoms and remains so after death until cremation or burial or until the virus is cleared from the body. There is no set treatment for Ebola, though new trial drugs are being developed. What does the Ebola virus have to do with wastewater operators in Virginia? The answer varies according to the CDC depending on where contact with contaminated waste might occur. That being said, the overall risk of contracting Ebola in the United States is very low since only two individuals have entered the country during the recent outbreak. On Nov. 20, 2014, the CDC released an "Interim Guidance for Managers and Workers Handling Untreated Sewage from Suspected or Confirmed Individuals with Ebola in the U.S." and a supplemental of Frequently Asked Questions. The Guidance document covers key points, people who are most likely to come in contact with untreated Ebola waste, how it is transmitted and recommendations for PPE and basic hygiene practices. The good news is that the Ebola virus is more fragile than other enteric viruses such as diarrheal disease or hepatitis and is more susceptible to environmental stresses and chemical germicides (chlorine) than non-enveloped viruses, such as hepatitis A, poliovirus and norovirus. In other words, once the virus is outside of a living host its chances for survival before reaching another host is slim. The sewage workers most at risk in the event 13

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Streamline - Spring 2015

From the President: Power Failure
From the Executive Director: Highlights from 2014
The Sustainability Managed Utility
Communication… Say What?
Flushing Away the Ebola Threat
Hazard Communication Standards – Guidelines for OSHA Compliance
State Water Control Board Approves Controversial Permit
VRWA Said Goodbye to Past Executive Director
USDA Rural Development
The RATES Program
Adequate Rates versus Affordability
NRWA Recap
Debt Refinancing: An Alternate Source of Capital
How the Cloud is Revolutionizing the Future of Water Utility Management
Southern Corrosion Supports Victory Junction
Throwing My Loop: Call Me Anytime
Wastewater Math
Booster Club
eLearning Benefits
Membership Application
Do You Know What Your VRWA Benefits Are?
VRWA Mailbag
New Members
Board of Directors
VRWA Committees
Index to Advertisers/

Streamline - Spring 2015