While the genetic material of SARS-CoV-2 has been detected in untreated wastewater and in sewage systems in many countries worldwide, it is still unclear whether any of the detected virus is infectious, and no cases of COVID-19 due to contact with wastewater have been reported. The WHO states that risk of faecal-oral transmission of COVID-19 is low. However, human waste is hazardous and can contain numerous pathogens and should be safely managed in all settings. For more information on the survival and persistence of SARS-CoV-2 and related viruses in the environment, including in wastewater, please see this section.
While additional precautions are necessary to prevent person-to-person and surface transmission of COVID-19 among sanitation workers (see section “Do sanitation workers face other risks that require preventative actions?”), the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and US Occupational Health and Safety Administration have stated that no additional COVID-19 specific measures are necessary to mitigate the risks due to occupational exposure to human waste. Sanitation workers should follow standard safety precautions and hygiene practices, including routine administrative and engineering controls, when handling or working near human waste.
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Author: Jackie Knee
Review: Kelly James, Kelly Baker
Last update: 06.07.2020