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How Wastewater Has Helped Track the Spread of COVID-19
Monday, May 17, 2021

If there is one little-known fact for the general public about public health crises, it is that sometimes you can track the spread of a virus through wastewater management. This holds true for COVID-19 too.

Maybe you still have questions about wastewater and its relevance for discovering how viruses or bacteria spread? Then you've come to the right place!

Keep reading to learn more about wastewater and its relationship to COVID-19.

What is Wastewater?

Wastewater is what it sounds like. It is also referred to as sewage.

When you think about sewage, it is any water coming from your household or a building that has fecal matter in it. Wastewater usually comes from toilets, showers, and sinks. It may also include rainwater or water used in an industrial setting.

Wastewater is a natural occurrence due to our plumbing systems, but that doesn't mean it's not gross. You should not come into contact with wastewater for fun.

That said, wastewater has provided a huge way that the CDC and United States Department of Health and Human Services have looked for traces of the COVID-19 virus in the water.

Using Wastewater Treatment Facilities to Track Bacteria and Disease

It is no simple task to track harmful bacteria and disease in wastewater, but wastewater treatment facilities do the work when it comes to finding SARS-CoV-2, or the virus that causes COVID-19.

Here's why surveilling wastewater for viruses works.

Not Everyone Has Symptoms

If you only test the part of the population that is showing COVID-19 symptoms, then you may miss out on finding those who are asymptomatic but are carrying and spreading the virus.

This is where using wastewater treatment facilities to track disease is super useful. It may tell us that there are even more people infected than we thought (which isn't a pleasant thought but could be reality).

Wastewater Could Be the COVID-19 Whistleblower

Scientists have found viral genetic material from COVID-19 in waste but not the actual virus itself. However, through tracking the virus's genetic material, it can provide an early warning sign for a region that may be experiencing an increased outbreak.

When scientists and a community enable wastewater surveillance, they may be able to coordinate a better public health response to COVID-19.

Remember: It's Not 100% Accurate

Though keeping track of the amount of SARS-CoV-2 genetic material found in wastewater is a good idea, it is not 100% accurate about how many people are infected in the community.

That said, it is another great way for communities to stay more informed of what is showing up in wastewater, to allow them to know what else their community is at risk of.

Wastewater Management Helps

Consider what steps you can take for wastewater management in your home and community. It's not just about sewage: it's also about public health.

Contact us at Entech Design about our quality sludge level monitors for wastewater. Keep your home and neighborhood in the loop!