No one really knows whether the deadly Ebola virus can survive on glass surfaces or counter-tops or how long it remains active in water, waste water, or sludge, new research has found.
“The World Health Organisation has been saying you can put (human waste) in pit latrines or ordinary sanitary sewers and that the virus then dies,” said Kyle Bibby of the University of Pittsburgh in US.
“But the literature lacks evidence that it does. They may be right, but the evidence isn’t there,” said Bibby.
Bibby and colleagues from 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 Organisation guidelines recommend to hospitals and health clinics that liquid wastes from patients be flushed down the toilet or disposed of in a latrine, researchers said.
However, Ebola research labs that use patients’ liquid waste are supposed to disinfect the waste before it enters the sewage system.
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 dearth of published studies on the matter.
“That means no one knows for sure whether the virus can survive on a surface and cause infection or how long it remains active in water, wastewater, or sludge,” researchers said.
The team concluded that Ebola’s persistence outside the body needs more careful investigation.
The study was published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology Letters.