Environmental Contamination and Persistence of Ebola Virus RNA in an Ebola Treatment Center

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Abstract

Background. Ebola viruses (EBOVs) are primarily transmitted by contact with infected body fluids. Ebola treatment centers (ETCs) contain areas that are exposed to body fluids through the care of patients suspected or confirmed to have EBOV disease. There are limited data documenting which areas/fomites within ETCs pose a risk for potential transmission. This study conducted environmental surveillance in 2 ETCs in Freetown, Sierra Leone, during the 2014–2016 West African Ebola outbreak.

Methods. ETCs were surveyed over a 3-week period. Sites to be swabbed were identified with input from field personnel. Swab samples were collected and tested for the presence of EBOV RNA. Ebola-positive body fluid-impregnated cotton pads were serially sampled.

Results. General areas of both ETCs were negative for EBOV RNA. The immediate vicinity of patients was the area most likely to be positive for EBOV RNA. Personal protective equipment became positive during patient care, but chlorine solution washes rendered them negative.

Conclusions. Personal protective equipment and patient environs do become positive for EBOV RNA, but careful attention to decontamination seems to remove it. EBOV RNA was not detected in general ward spaces. Careful attention to decontamination protocols seems to be important in minimizing the presence of EBOV RNA within ETC wards.

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