February 4, 2022 – CDC’s online COVID Data Tracker will now include information on COVID-19 particles found in community wastewater, something to help detect viral outbreaks as home tests have left many cases unreported.
The National Wastewater Surveillance System (NWSS) includes wastewater data from more than 400 testing sites nationwide. One of the earliest signs of infection is a spill of the COVID-19 virus in the feces, allowing federal officials to monitor early trends at the community level, said Dr. Amy Kirby, program manager for the surveillance system.
“This is a very powerful method for monitoring variants of concern,” she said at a briefing on Friday. “It’s also very important because our testing strategy has changed and more and more people are using tests at home.”
The system has been in operation since September 2020, Kirby said, and now has enough data to share. In the next few weeks, she expects another 250 pages to be added.
Wastewater is collected as it flows into the treatment plant. Researchers at local laboratories are concentrating the virus from wastewater samples and extracting genetic material for sequencing, Kirby said. This data is then sent to the CDC.
This can be used in most U.S. communities – nearly 80% of households are served by municipal wastewater collection systems, according to the CDC. citiesi even some collegeshave been using wastewater testing for months identify outbreaks.
“Unlike other types of COVID-19 surveillance, wastewater surveillance does not depend on people having access health carepeople seeking health care when they are ill or the availability of testing on COVID-19, ”reads the NWSS CDC website.
It is a monitoring tool that has been used for decades for monitoring polio abroad. Now the dashboard will allow this type of data to be made public, Kirby said.
And it has potential applications for other diseases.
“One of the advantages of wastewater monitoring is that it is very flexible. If a new interesting pathogen emerges, we could strengthen this system within a few weeks, ”Kirby said. “There is also interest in using this for non-communicable diseases. We don’t see that this will be the current use, but that’s something we’re thinking about below. “