The Ebola virus travels from person to person through direct contact with infected body fluids. But how long can the virus survive on glass surfaces or countertops? How long can it live in waste water when liquid wastes from a patient end up in the sewage system? In an article published December 9, 2014 in the journal Environmental Science & Technology Letters, Dr. Kyle Bibby of the University of Pittsburgh reviews the latest research to find answers to these questions. He and his co-investigators did not find many answers. "The World Health Organization has been saying you can put (human waste) in pit latrines or ordinary sanitary sewers and that the virus then dies," says Dr. Bibby, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering in Pitt's Swanson School of Engineering. "But the literature lacks evidence that it does. They may be right, but the evidence isn't there." Dr. Bibby and colleagues from Pitt and Drexel University explain that knowing how long the deadly pathogen survives on surfaces, in water, or in liquid droplets is critical to developing effective disinfection practices to prevent the spread of the disease. Currently, the World Health Organization guidelines recommend to hospitals and health clinics that liquid wastes from patients be flushed down the toilet or disposed of in a latrine. However, Ebola research labs that use patients' liquid waste are supposed to disinfect the waste before it enters the sewage system. Dr. Bibby's team set out to determine what research can and can't tell us about these practices. The researchers scoured scientific papers for data on how long the virus can live in the environment. They found a death of published studies on the matter.
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