I?m Not Only a Plumber, I?m also a Detective?.
Ebola and Plumbing, are we plumbers at a heightened risk of exposure? This is the question that kept running through my head as I sat and watched the media frenzy on the nightly news. ?BODILY FLUIDS? the media screams, ?BODILY FLUIDS the CDC chimes in. Well as a plumber I am exposed to other people?s bodily fluids on a daily basis. All of this hype drove me to begin my investigation into how I and every other plumbing professional are putting themselves at risk on a daily basis. Granted, we are nowhere near epidemic proportions in our Country, but I am more of a pro-active type of guy and didn?t want to wait until the last minute to try and figure out how to deal with this exposure.
I began my search with an email sent off to the CDC. You know? The Center for Disease Control, the all knowing Governmental agency that keeps us all safe from all those nasty germs flying around out there. The Government, right? The government that keeps telling us THEY are the ones who will take care of us, and that there is nothing to worry about! I posed the question to the ?Almighty CDC? regarding being a plumber and being exposed to untreated raw sewerage on a daily basis. How much and what risk was I being exposed to? I specifically asked them what the lifespan of Ebola was outside the human body and even more specifically how long was the lifespan of Ebola in fecal matter in a warm wet environment outside the body. I explained that we regularly open blocked sanitary sewers out side of buildings before the main sewer systems of the local system purveyors. Several days later I received a reply back from the CDC stating that there was nothing to worry about. Don?t give it a second thought! Nothing to worry about! All sewerage treatment plants have processes involved in treating sewerage that ensures all bacteria and virus?s are effectively killed in the treatment process! ??
So, I began my search for information of the lifespan of Ebola in bodily fluids once its left the human body. This search led me to The World Health Organization (WHO) They have tons of information about Ebola but nothing about it?s lifespan outside the body, let alone fecal matter trapped in some
poor guys house drain while suffering from Ebola. Imagine that poor son of a b?ch?. ?geeze honey, this Ebola thing is really killing me?Awe! You?ve got to be kidding me! The freakin? sewer is backed up !!! Hey, call the plumber? what was his name anyway?? I didn?t imagine it going quite that way, but the discrepancy in its time from exposure to the time of the onset of symptoms really worried me. The CDC is telling everyone in the Country that its between 4 and 21 days. O.K. great, 4 and 21 days, got it. The next day the University of Minnesota released their study and said that 5% of people exposed to Ebola will not experience symptoms until 41 days, 5 % ! Do the math?. 5% of 100 = 5 people, 5%of 1000 = 50 people and so on. The CDC says a 21-day quarantine will cover all chances of someone who came into contact with an Ebola victim being found, days later research sows that isn?t quite true! This lead to the most frightening research I found that begins to give some insight into the real danger of the Ebola issue. The Public Health Agency from Canada posted research titled; ?Survival outside the host? stating; ? The virus can survive in liquid or dried material for a number of days. Infectivity is found to be stable at room temperature or at 4C for several days, and indefinitely at -70C.
So there it is! ?SEVERAL DAYS? the answer I was looking for. In a Liquid or dry state!
Then another troubling report from another University study a day later, can or is Ebola be Airborne? The CDC says no way! The university study says well, not airborne per say, but definitely but aerosolized definitely! When a victim sneezes or coughs unprotected the mucosa that is subsequently discharged from the person creates tiny droplets that the Ebola virus is attached to. Remember the bodily fluids thing!? Now translate that to cutting open a sewer on a home. How many times have you seen ?steam? emanate from the sewer? Almost always right? What is the steam you may ask? Well it is aerosolized droplets of water carrying everything that is in the sewerage!
Now more than ever the above statement rings true. As Plumbers we know and understand that sewerage and the handling of it, or lack there of has caused most if not all of the serious outbreaks of illness through the history of the world. In fact there have been papers written already that modern plumbing and the proper disposal of human waste in these underdeveloped countries will eliminate the disease once this outbreak has been contained and ended.
We know as professionals that exposure to untreated sewerage today can lead to Hepatitis A exposure, Salmonellosis (Salmonella) and Typhoid fever to name a few. I am convinced that Ebola, as rare in our country as it is at this moment can also be added to that list.
What we know now.
Ultimately, my findings were that the CDC really doesn?t know what the heck it is doing. I believe no one really does when dealing with the Ebola issue. A
lot of people know a little bit about it but, no one entity is the go to source for understanding or researching this deadly illness. A single University, Medical Center or Government body has never formally conducted in depth research. Until there are definitive answers the only precaution we as professional plumbers can take is to ask a lot of questions. Questions that maybe we should have been asking for years when we encounter sewerage back up. Is there any one ill in the home may be a good place to start. There are many communicable diseases that we can contract, Plumb safely my friends!
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