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Avian Flu Unlikely to Spread Through Water Systems

ntaminated feces passing through the plant could infect plant workers and spread elsewhere through drinking water.

"You have some 50,000 treatment plants in the U.S., and all these operators that run the plants were concerned that if there were an influenza outbreak and everyone were sick, is it going to come into the plant and infect them and others," said co-author Dwight Bowman, a professor of parasitology at Cornell.

To test the effectiveness of UV radiation for killing the H5N2 virus, the researchers exposed the virus in drinking water as well as in wastewater effluents to UV light at varying levels. The treatment was very effective in killing H5N2 at levels well within industry standards (and at lower levels than are used for killing Cryptosporidium and Giardia in water).

For chlorine, which is mostly ubiquitous in U.S. drinking water, the results were less definitive. Inactivation of H5N2 depends on both chlorine concentrations and time of exposure. On average, U.S. treatment plants treat drinking water with chlorine concentrations of 1 milligram per liter for 237 minutes. Under these conditions, the researchers found that H5N2 (and probably H5N1) would be mostly inactivated, but further studies are needed to see if the viruses stay active when they come out of feces or are at different pH and salinity levels.

Similarly, the small laboratory-scale study found that bacterial digesters also reduced H5N2 to undetectable levels after 72 hours, which is consistent with industry standards. The researchers also found that higher digester temperatures inactivated the virus more quickly.

Source-Newswise
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