In our line of work, we come across environments with some very intense kinds of filth and debris. One of the scariest clean-up jobs is those that include the removal of human and/or animal feces and urine. Apart from its horrible odor and appearance, any form of excrement is considered an extreme biohazard.
Human Feces and Disease
Feces can carry various viral and bacterial diseases, as well as parasites. Some of these diseases can live in the fecal matter for several days. Included in the dangerous pathogen category are Typhoid fever, Cholera, Hepatitis A, and a variety of worms (helminths). In addition, there are Rotavirus, Norwalk Agent virus, and numerous other pathogens that can cause respiratory distress and severe diarrhea. Viruses cannot multiply outside of a host, but they can survive for several weeks, depending on temperature, while waiting for a new host.
Diseases Spread by Animal Feces
Many pathogens capable of infecting humans can be found in animal feces as well. Insufficient separation of animal feces from human domestic environments can lead to fecal-oral transmission of what is known as “zoonotic pathogens” through direct contact with animal feces or soil, or fecal contamination of fomites, food, or water sources.
In addition to the acute gastrointestinal symptoms that can arise from contact with animal feces, people—particularly children, pregnant women, and the immunocompromised—may experience severe and recurring symptoms after a zoonotic infection. Below are just a few examples of illnesses that can be passed from animals – dogs in particular – to humans:
- Campylobacteriosis – Symptoms include diarrhea, cramping, abdominal pain, and fever. The illness typically lasts one week but for people with compromised immune systems, Campylobacter can spread to the bloodstream and result in a life-threatening infection.
- E. Coli and other fecal coliforms live in the intestines of many animals. Certain strains can escape into the bloodstream, or cause stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and fever. For people with weakened immune systems, E. coli infection can result in death.
- Salmonellosis is the most common bacterial infection transmitted to humans by other animals. Symptoms include fever, muscle aches, headache, vomiting, and diarrhea.
- Yersiniosis is another bacterial disease that can cause intestinal infections in people. Yersinia can multiply in cold water, unlike many other bacteria and may be found in elevated numbers in ponds, puddles, and lakes as they thaw in the spring.
- Cyclospora infection – This usually incubates in the body for a week and then causes gastroenteritis that can wax and wane for over a month. Cryptosporidium and Giardia microscopic parasites found in water. They can cause intestinal diseases (giardiasis or “beaver fever ” and cryptosporidiosis).
- Roundworm (including hookworm and whipworm) larva can migrate throughout the body to the brain, lungs, kidneys, liver, heart, or eyes. The roundworm larva can cause blindness
- Tapeworms can infect humans through the pores of their skin or by being ingested. They attach to the intestines and absorb nutrients from their host
- Toxoplasmosis, a parasite carried by cats, can cause birth defects if a woman becomes infected during pregnancy or for people with depressed immune systems.
How Fecal Illnesses Spread
Fecal diseases are spread in what is known as the fecal-oral route, it means that contaminated feces from an infected animal or person are ingested by another person. Usually, the situation occurs when an infected person might forget to properly wash his hands after using the toilet, touching a contaminated surface, or petting an animal. Any thing or person he or she touches afterward might be contaminated with the same microscopic germs. It can also occur from eating or drinking contaminated food or liquids.
Poor Sanitation and Fecal-Oral Biohazards
When there is inadequate sanitation such as poor hand washing or cleaning protocols, there is the continued, very dangerous chance of contamination of surfaces, food and/or water supplies with human and/or animal fecal matter.
There may be situations where proper sanitation has not been possible. A person may be disabled, elderly, or too ill to clean their environment or clean up after their pet, or the person may have passed away. That’s where a professionally trained biohazard cleaning team comes in. When a biohazard aka gross filth is present, a biohazard management company has personal protective equipment and cleaning supplies needed to remove the fecal matter and completely decontaminate and deodorize the area, making it clean and safe again for human entry.