I am a college student and I recently was conducting some chemistry work in a lab with wastewater from a sewage/wastewater treatment plant. We were advised to wear gloves throughout the whole process, but I stupidely chose to handle some of the wastewater without gloves, and spilled some on my hand, perhaps more than once. I later found out that sewer workers are at greater risk of conracting hepatitis C due to the fact that lots of blood gets flushed down drains and into the wastewater system, and then contraction of the virus can occur iff A) there is blood in the sewage, and B) I have an open wound that comes ino contact with the blood in the solution.
Is there any risk of me contracting a virus such as hepatitis C from this incident? The wastewater solution I was working with had the colour of cloudy water essentially, and no bloodiness in the water was visible to the naked eye as far as I can remember. I also do not remember having any open wounds at the time, but I'm not ruling out the possibility as I work construction when I am not in school, and typically get small cuts or scrapes on my hands. (I understand the size of a cut needs not to be very large in order to be worrisome when dealing with viruses.)
I work in wastewater myself and because there is the potential for contamination with pathogens (disease causing organisms), you should always take precautions but in the 25 years I have been doing this, I have never heard of anyone catching anything. If it was the influent into the plant, it is very dilute. More dangers exixts in the primary or activated sludge or sludge from a digester.
The employees around me would be more likely to catch it from me than from wastewater! Get tested and that will help you to ease your worry and from now on, always wear the proper PPE (personal protective equipment).
If it was me, I wouldn't stress though.
An remember: the 1st rule of WWT is never bite your fingernails :o)
Does anyone know if blood diluted in wastewater could be dangerous? And thanks for the response, this seems like of one of those things that would be an extremely unlikely situation, but I still can't get it off my mind.
Hep C can even live on surfaces, for many days, so I imagine it could live in the waste water for that length of time as well.
The thing is, did you have an open cut, Josh? It
is Universal Precaution, to wear gloves while working with bodily fluids.
I realize the virus can survive for a long time in even minisule amounts of blood, but if the infected blood is mixed in large amounts of water can the virus/blood still be present in the resulting solution and cause infection?
Lets say 20ml of infected blood is mixed with 2L of water? Is this solution still potentially infectious? I'm guessing in the sewage/wastewater system, the amount of potential "hep blood" vs. all the other substances going down drains is immensely less than even my example mixture, but you get the idea.
I agree with nygirl7. Hepatitis C is transmitted blood to blood only and you have no reason to worry about it in this case as the odds are so remote as to be absurd. I do think you should worry a lot more about the other pathogens you can be exposed to this way, such as hepatitis A - classically transmitted via fecal contamination. If you haven't been vaccinated, you definitely should make that a priority.
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