Cleveland’s wastewater could help track spread of coronavirus

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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WJW) – The virus that causes COVID-19 has been found in the feces of some coronavirus patients and therefore untreated wastewater. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), there are no confirmed reports of the virus spreading from feces to a person.

But water samples from sewer systems could provide more information about how widespread coronavirus is especially with a lack of testing. 

The Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District (NEORSD) says it is exploring a partnership with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to provide water samples from its three water treatment plants. 

Those plants serve around 1 million residents. 

The samples would help detect levels of COVID-19 genetic material in wastewater over a period of time, according to NEORSD Senior Pubic Information Specialist Jenn Elting.

“The findings from these samples could be helpful in informing public health officials about potential increased detection of the virus in wastewater, including in community hotspots, as well as protecting the public from possible future COVID outbreaks,” Elting told FOX 8 in an email.

The CDC says there is no evidence that people can get coronavirus through the sewage system.

Ohio’s Department of Health Director Amy Acton said in March that gastrointestinal issues were one of the symptoms, so it was clear early that gut bacteria was affected. 

The company Biobot is testing sewage in 30 states.

Dr. Mariana Matus, co-founder and CEO of Biobot, did an interview with CNBC this week.

New Castle County Executive Matt Meyer told CNN his county in Delaware partnered with BioBot.

According to the sewage tests, the area had nearly 4 times the amount of coronavirus confirmed by tests.

Biobot estimated there were 15,200 cases of coronavirus in the county by testing sewage samples.

Johns Hopkins University data has that number at 4,034.

The National Institute for Public Health in the Netherlands monitored wastewater in their community beginning on February 17.

Tests detected the virus in wastewater on March 2. 

The first person who contracted COVID-19 in the Netherlands was diagnosed on February 27, according to RIVM research.

NEORSD says the talks with the EPA are in the beginning stages.

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