Wastewater Surveillance for COVID-19
Knowing the extent of community spread is greatly valuable for COVID-19 response. Local public health agencies can make more informed decisions on level of control, social distancing – when to start and for how long – and on community medical preparation. However, it is impractical to test everyone in the community. Testing is usually not conducted unless a person has developed symptoms, and sometimes testing is further limited to people with symptoms and high-risk factors. Moreover, 25% of infected people have no symptom, and will not be tested. The risk of silent circulation is high. As a result, current assessment based on the number of COVID-19 cases reported can be deceiving and merely depends on how many human tests are administered. Additionally, no early warning can be sounded in the community if the pandemic comes back in waves.
Testing for SARS-CoV-2 (the virus responsible for the COVID-19 disease) in wastewater can be a solution. COVID-19 virus shedding in feces can start on the 3rd day of infection, before any symptoms develop. In the Water Research Foundation’s webinar , water health experts from the United States and Australia proposed monitoring for the virus in sewage to track and trace the disease over time. More recently, Dutch scientists reported detection of SARS-CoV-2 in sewage before any clinic case was reported in the community, and the report was picked up in many news outlets including nature news. Increasing numbers of wastewater monitoring projects for COVID-19 surveillance are now being done in communities overseas and in US.
Is your organization in a position to support public health decision making for your community by providing samples?
Do you want more data to inform when it may be possible to lift social distancing, open businesses, or to tighten control measures and prepare for increased screening of patients?