By B.N. Frank
You may be relieved, mortified, or both to learn that there are scientists worldwide willing to pilfer poop in order to study the spread of COVID-19.
Waste-watching: Sewage can help track pandemic virus trends
NEW YORK (AP) — One county in Utah beat back a spike of pandemic virus infections in the spring, and another saw its rate jump. Both trends showed up in their sewage.
Yes, sewage. Across the U.S. and in Europe, researchers and health officials say they can track the course of a community outbreak of the new coronavirus by studying the waste flushed from its bathrooms. And that can provide a valuable addition to public health tools, they say.
In Utah, wastewater from communities near a Cache County meatpacking plant that discovered 287 infected workers indicated an outbreak several days before it was officially reported. In contrast, sewage from Summit County showed a decline after officials imposed anti-virus measures, including asking tourists to stay away from its popular Park City ski area.
The monitoring in April and May was part of a demonstration project, and the results helped persuade state officials to authorize a bigger monitoring effort that will include wastewater from 75% of Utah’s residents, said Erica Gaddis, director of the state’s Division of Water Quality.
Contact tracing can be a messy business.
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