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Guidance for sewer and water workers

CDC information for wastewater personnel

CDC is preparing Ebola-related guidance on wastewater worker safety titled Interim Guidance for Workers Handling Untreated Sewage from Ebola Cases in the United States to address basic hygiene practices, personal protective equipment (PPE) use, and PPE disposal actions. The guidance is expected to provide recommendations and protocols for:

CDC has stated that the guidance review would be expedited and indicated that guidance could be released in November.

Informative webinar by national water and wastewater organizations

The webcast recording for the November 4, 2014 Water Environment Research Foundation and Water Environment Federation webinar is available at: www.wef.org/EbolaWastewaterConcerns and the handouts are at: www.wef.org/EbolaHandouts. A summary of possible sewage worker protections is provided below.

Ebola background

Ebola virus is spread person-to-person through direct contact with bodily fluids (such as blood, vomit, diarrhea, urine, sweat, semen, saliva, and breast milk). The incubation period is usually 8–10 days (range 2–21 days). People can transmit the virus when they have a fever and through later stages of disease, including postmortem. People are not contagious until symptomatic.

More Information from the CDC

Ebola and wastewater

CDC and the World Health Organization (WHO) indicate sanitary sewers may be used for the safe disposal of patient wastes (e.g., feces, urine, vomit, and liquid waste from washing).

Sewage workers need personal protection when working in sewers. A large number of viruses and bacteria are already present in raw sewage wastewater (http://aem.asm.org/content/75/5/1402.full). Although specific data on Ebola persistence in sewage is not currently available, the Ebola virus belongs to a group of viruses that are generally less resistant to the environment outside the body (more easily inactivated) than others, such as norovirus.

The Water Environment Research Foundation and Water Environment Federation webinar provided the following information for recommended protection of sewage workers:

Use Appropriate PPE to protect against contact with human wastes

Basic hygiene practices

Effective Hand Washing

General information

(Adapted from the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment)

 For more information, please contact the Health Department at 612-673-2301 or cityhealthpreparedness@minneapolismn.gov

Last updated Aug 26, 2016

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