Recent studies have shown that those infected with the novel coronavirus shed the virus in their waste, and it can be detected in wastewater systems. DWFI Faculty Fellows Shannon Bartelt-Hunt, Jesse Bell and Xu Li, along with other university colleagues — and with assistance from the cities of Lincoln, Grand Island and Omaha — have been monitoring COVID-19 virus concentrations in wastewater samples collected weekly throughout the cities since April.
Three Nebraska cities are comparing wastewater sample data with demographic data and other known information related to the coronavirus. One goal will be to see how the wastewater tests correlate with actual cases and determine whether wastewater testing does a good job of predicting illnesses.
The amount of the virus shed in wastewater could be a leading indicator for the amount of spread within a community and give public health officials the chance to be proactive on plotting and responding to its course. By monitoring the virus in wastewater, researchers hope to detect potential outbreaks and account for those who are asymptomatic or not currently engaged with the healthcare system.