‘Unprecedented’ spike in COVID viral load in wastewater

SAN DIEGO (CNS) – An ‘unprecedented’ spike in COVID-19 viral load in wastewater collected at San Diego County’s main wastewater treatment facility was reported by researchers at UC San on Saturday Diego School of Medicine.

The amount of COVID-19 virus detected in sewage predicted the number of COVID-19 cases in the region up to three weeks before clinical diagnostic reports, researchers said. Since people with COVID-19 excrete the virus in their stool even before they feel symptoms, wastewater screening acts as an early warning system.

“The sewage screening results reported on Friday are unlike any the team has seen before,” said Jackie Carr of UC San Diego Health. Delta and Omicron variants of the virus have been detected in wastewater.

“This confirms earlier county reports that Omicron is already here and circulating in our community,” said Dr. Wilma Wooten, San Diego County public health official.

“This is the steepest viral load curve we’ve seen since we started testing wastewater in the summer of 2020, and it continues to worsen faster than ever before,” said Rob Knight, professor and wastewater screening officer at UC San Diego School. of Medicine.

Researchers and public health officials said they hoped the warning would encourage the local community to step up efforts to help mitigate the expected surge. In addition to wearing face masks in indoor public spaces, as recently mandated by California, they urged people to get vaccinated or get vaccinated if they haven’t already.

They also recommended downloading the CA Notify exposure notification system to smartphones, limiting time spent indoors or without a mask with others, and taking steps to improve indoor ventilation and household filtration. the air.

“Plus, every person in San Diego County should have a low threshold for testing right now,” said Christopher Longhurst, chief medical officer and digital manager at UC San Diego Health. ” Do not wait. If you have any symptoms, if you think you’ve been in contact with someone with COVID-19, if you’ve gathered in a crowd without a mask, if you are planning a meeting – test, test, test. “

COVID-19 PCR tests are available at UC San Diego Health, various sites in San Diego County, other health providers, and community pharmacies. Rapid home antigen tests are available at retail pharmacies and online vendors. Anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 should see their health care provider.

San Diego County has only one primary wastewater treatment facility, in the Point Loma neighborhood. All the excreta disposed of by nearly two-thirds of the county’s residents, including those on the UC San Diego campus, ends up there.

UCSD researchers collect wastewater samples that have been collected and stored for them by laboratory technicians at the treatment plant. They bring the samples to a La Jolla campus lab to test for the COVID-19 virus, along with sewage samples collected from more than 350 campus buildings. All positive samples are sequenced to follow viral variants.

The team can detect even a single infected and asymptomatic person living or working in a large building of more than 500 people on the UCSD campus. They found that notifying occupants of each building with positive sewage increases COVID-19 test rates by up to 13 times. The approach resulted in the early detection of 85% of COVID-19 cases on the UCSD campus, officials said.

Copyright 2021, City News Service, Inc.

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