Virginia will test sewage to help predict COVID-19 outbreaks

Coronavirus

FILE – A sealed coffin containing the remains of a COVID-19 victim is stored in a refrigerated container in Johannesburg, Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2021. A new coronavirus variant has been detected in South Africa that scientists say is a concern because of its high number of mutations and rapid spread among young people in Gauteng, the country’s most populous province. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay, File)

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — The Virginia Department of Health will be monitoring sewage in various parts of the state in an effort to predict future outbreaks of COVID-19.

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The Danville Register & Bee reported Saturday that VDH is deploying up to 25 wastewater monitoring sites across the commonwealth.

Testing sewage can help health officials gauge COVID-19 infection in a community. That’s because people who are sick shed the virus in bodily waste. The sewage monitoring will complement other programs that monitor COVID-19 infection in the state’s communities.

The goal is to provide warnings before a surge begins. This kind of testing of wastewater isn’t new. It’s been used for other infectious diseases, such as polio.

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