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
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
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
Do You Know What Your VRWA Benefits Are?
Board of Directors
Index to Advertisers/ Ad.com
Streamline - Spring 2015