Ebola patients, Dr. Brantly and Nancy Writebol are presently being treated in an isolation unit at Emory University hospital. Protocol ensures they are kept in a single patient room. All persons entering must wear double gloves, gown, eye protection, face mask, disposable shoe covers and leg coverings. Dedicated medical equipment should be disposable. However, the Ebola patient’s wastes are going into public sewage.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) site proclaims that U.S. hospitals can safely manage a patient with EVD (the viral Ebola hemorrhage fever) by following “recommended isolation and infection control procedures.” Further down in the report it reveals “Liquid medical waste such as feces and vomitus can be disposed of in the sanitary sewer.”
Fears about the Ebola virus being transported to the U.S. have been rampant. Infected people are highly contagious. Anyone who touches them or their body fluids (urine, feces, saliva, sweat, even breast milk) is at risk. There is some suspicion that the virus could also be airborne.
What is known is how quickly symptoms progress. Within days there is fever, severe headache, muscle aches and weakness, followed by diarrhea, vomiting and stomach pain, progressing to rash, kidney failure, severe hemorrhaging and death. Presently almost 60 percent of those infected die. There is no vaccine or FDA approved treatment for Ebola.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared Ebola an international health crisis. They are sending nine teams to Africa to help with the epidemic. Nigeria’s land borders, sea ports and airports are on red alert. Liberia’s president formed a new task force dedicated to contain the disease. Sierra Leone has dispatched troops to ensure Ebola patients are kept in isolation.
The Ebola crisis is the largest outbreak ever recorded. The West African countries of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia have all been drastically affected, and Nigeria is afraid it is heading their way. Presently, there have been 1,779 cases with a death toll of 961. Patients may transmit the virus any time from about day two after being exposed until well after they die.
Atlanta’s news agencies have revealed that the Ebola patient’s wastes, including feces and urine, are going into the city’s public sewer system. They go on to say there is no risk of infection to the general public, because their waste management practices will kill any virus flushed into the system.
Atlanta’s sewer system covers about a 19 square mile area, comprising about 15 percent of Atlanta’s total area. Their website acknowledges “but this system is aging as well, and sanitary sewer overflows occur frequently.” The city has four water reclamation centers and 14 pump stations that pump waste water flows into the sewer system.
There is documentation from similar viruses in the past that these can survive in liquid or dry materials for a number of days. Authorities assure that “we do not think there will be any secondary cases” as a result of having the Ebola patients staying at Emory. Since the news broke of the Ebola patients’ wastes flowing directly into the public sewage system, many people are not this confident.
By Laurie Stilwell