Aerosolization of Ebola Virus Surrogates in Wastewater Systems

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Virginia Tech

Recent studies have shown that Ebola virus can persist in wastewater, and the potential for the virus to be aerosolized and pose a risk of inhalation exposure has not been evaluated. We considered this risk for three wastewater systems: toilets, a lab-scale model of an aeration basin, and a lab-scale model of converging sewer pipes. We measured the aerosol size distribution generated by each system, spiked Ebola virus surrogates into each system, and determined the emission rate of viruses into the air. While the number of aerosols released ranged from 105 to 107 per flush from the toilets or per minute from the lab-scale models, the total volume of aerosols generated by these systems was ~10-8 to 10-7 mL per flush or per minute in all cases. The Ebola virus surrogates MS2 and Phi6, spiked into toilets at an initial concentration of 107 PFU mL-1, were not detected in air after flushing. Airborne concentrations of MS2 and Phi6 were ~20 PFU L-1 and ~0.1 PFU L-1, respectively, associated with the aeration basin and sewer models. This corresponds to emission rates of 547 PFU min-1 and 3.8 PFU min-1 of MS2 and Phi6, respectively, for the aeration basin and 79 PFU min-1 and 0.3 PFU min-1 for the sewer model. Since information on the aerosolization of Ebola virus is quite limited, these emission rates can greatly help inform risk assessment of inhalation exposure to Ebola virus.

Ebola, virus, bioaerosol, inhalation, wastewater