TAMPA, Fla. - There was an unexpected topic discussed in congressional hearings about the U.S.’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic – sewage.
It turns out, researchers believe they can track the spread of the novel coronavirus based on its presence in wastewater.
The authors of a study published in April suggested sewage testing could be useful for government and health officials to know where to concentrate supplies like COVID-19 tests and personal protective equipment (PPE).
During the hearings, sewage testing came up as a possible way to monitor the virus in colleges and universities, as questions arose about reopening schools around the country.
When it came to universities, testing, identifying, and isolating infected students will likely be part of a comprehensive plan, but sewage may also play a role.
A toilet seat marked as "sanitized for our protection" in a motel in Upstate New York (James Leynse/Corbis / Getty Images)
FOX 13 News medical doctor Joette Giovinco says wastewater analysis isn't new. It has been used to track other infections like polio and influenza, and even illicit drug use within communities.
In the Netherlands, SARS-CoV2, the virus that causes COVID-19, was picked up in wastewater within four days of cases being confirmed in the country.
According to a recent report, the virus has also been picked up in sewage in the U.S., Sweden, and Australia.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, SARS-CoV 2 has been found in the feces of some patients diagnosed with COVID-19, but there are no confirmed reports of the virus spreading from feces to a person.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also says there is no evidence COVID-19 can be transmitted through wastewater.
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