Thursday, November 10, 2011

Norovirus In Groundwater

All over the news of late is research from Emery University that is declaring the longevity of the norovirus in groundwater.  This virus is responsible for gastroenteritis in humans which is not a pleasant condition by any means.  They actually human tested it up to 61 days finding that it was still fully infectious.  The report says they also kept it at room temperature in the dark and after 622 days there was enough viral RNA present to conclude that it was still fully infectious after that long.  Even after 1,266 days it was barely diminished.  They conclude this is proof of the need to further treat groundwater from wells that could be affected by leaking or faulty sewer lines or septic systems.

But wait a minute, in digging deeper, the report divulges that the norovirus in this study was put into groundwater taken from the well and kept in the lab for the entire study. This is a far cry from placing the norovirus in the groundwater and letting it transmit through the aquifer to be withdrawn from a well and then consumed.  Keep in mind, that groundwater is largely an anaerobic environment at a constant temperature usually somewhere between 50 and 60 degrees F.  This is a much different environment than water sitting in a lab at room temperature.  And also groundwater quality, depth of occurrence and virtually every other condition you can think of is so varied from place to place that these results can't possibly be transferable.

I don't doubt that the norovirus may last a longer time in the groundwater than we may have suspected to date, but shouldn't we demand a real experiment to test its longevity?  Come on Emery.  And don't forget this is Georgia groundwater to boot!  Now in the Ogallala, I doubt the nasty norovirus could even last three hours.  I've never seen any.

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