Thursday, October 29, 2020

Wastewater testing holds the key to understand COVID-19 infection rates in Metro Vancouver

In the summer, there were several news articles about BC researchers sampling wastewater/sewage to see if it could help track the spread and rate of infection due to COVID-19 in Metro Vancouver.

A pilot project at the Annacis Island wastewater treatment plant was successful in finding COVID-19. As a result, the Metro Vancouver Regional District will be rapidly ramping up the sampling program at all wastewater treatment plants in our region.

Because there are five wastewater treatment plants in four distinct sewerage areas, this testing program should also be able to track COVID-19 infection rates at a sub-regional level.

Wastewater treatment plants and sewerage areas in Metro Vancouver. Select image to enlarge. Source: Metro Vancouver

More work is required to develop a testing methodology. The hope is that reporting will be available in the first quarter of next year.

Because people only get COVID-19 testing if they have cold, influenza or COVID-19-like symptoms, public health officials only see a small self-selecting portion of our region's population today. Being able to track COVID-19 infection rates via wastewater means that researchers and public health officials will be able to sample almost everyone in Metro Vancouver.

Using wastewater to test for COVID-19 will provide public health officials with a better understanding of the virus's spread at a sub-regional level in Metro Vancouver.

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