Are you receiving questions about the Ebola virus from customers? We’ve got the answers.

The Ebola virus has now hit a few Americans, and concern is spreading among citizens. As onsite wastewater and septic pumping professionals, you might be getting calls and questions from worried homeowners about how the virus could affect wastewater or septic systems. And you might be wondering if you and your employees are at risk of getting the virus from waste-borne pathogens lurking at your septic service jobs.

We’ve got the answers. 

First, and most importantly, septic system owners are not in danger of being infected by the Ebola virus simply because they own an onsite system that processes and treats wastewater. The virus is only transmitted through direct contact with infected bodily fluids (blood, vomit, feces). 

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Just this week, the Water Research Foundation released easy-to-understand information about the virus and to reinforce that Ebola cannot spread through local water supplies or through onsite systems. Take note of these five facts to help ease the minds of your customers: 

  • Ebola is not a foodborne, waterborne or airborne illness. 
  • The virus is transmitted to humans from wild animals and spreads in the human population through human-to-human transmission. Ebola is transmitted through direct contact with infected bodily fluids (blood, vomit, feces). 
  • The Ebola virus can only replicate within host cells. Therefore, it cannot survive long in water because it does not have a host — either a human or an animal. 
  • Because of Ebola’s fragility when separated from its host, bodily fluids flushed by an infected person would not contaminate the water supply. 
  • Researchers believe that Ebola survives in water for only a matter of minutes. This is because water does not provide the same environment as our bodily fluids, which have higher salt concentrations. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the United States has added new security screening procedures to major airports nationwide to identify travelers from Ebola-affected nations of West Africa. The CDC hopes this will minimize the chance of an infected person spreading the virus to others in the United States because he or she can be quarantined and checked by a doctor first. 

So, educate concerned customers, and tell them they can rest easy knowing they’re not in any direct danger of contracting the Ebola virus simply because they use an onsite septic system. 

Related: Blog: Disaster averted: Toddler pulled from septic tank

We’ve established that you and your customers are not in direct danger, but it’s always better to lean on the side of safety. The more safety, the better. 

Our resident septic specialist, Jim Anderson, recently wrote an article on protecting employees from waste-borne pathogens, so while Ebola isn’t a concern, it’s still a good idea to review the tips he suggested to keep you and your employees safe on the job:

  1. Always wear rubber gloves. This is often difficult because gloves get in the way of opening things and it is easy to become frustrated and remove them. Another point is that leather gloves do not make for good protection because the bacteria and viruses can stay in the leather, creating an ongoing risk for sickness. 
  2. Keep your hands and fingers away from your mouth, nose, eyes and ears, which are all places or paths for infection. Before eating or smoking wash your hands thoroughly. Treat any cuts or scratches immediately using an antibiotic and protect the area from contact with sewage. 
  3. Change clothing and shower immediately after work; a good strategy is to wear coveralls that can be put on and taken off at the site and kept in the back of the truck or trailer, away from the cab. 
  4. Wash work clothes separately from other household laundry. This goes not only for clothes but towels or rags used during work. They should be washed in hot water, preferably with a chlorine bleach for disinfection. 
  5. Have your immunizations up to date. These would be for typhoid, polio and hepatitis. 
  6. Have a first-aid kit handy as well as a supply of insect repellent and hornet and wasp spray. 
  7. Have alcohol-based waterless hand cleaners along with antibacterial soaps and hand-wipes to use when washing hands when possible until leaving the work site. These can be used until you’re back at home or the shop where hands can be thoroughly washed.

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Are you receiving calls about the virus from concerned customers? What are you telling them? Post a comment below!

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