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Wastewater surveillance leads to early detection of coronavirus

Published: Dec. 10, 2020 at 6:31 PM CST|Updated: Dec. 10, 2020 at 6:34 PM CST
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - Since September, the Department of Health Services, the Wisconsin Lab of Hygiene and UW-Milwaukee partnered to study samples of fecal matter to detect the coronavirus for the Wastewater Surveillance Program.

Scientists look for the genetic code of the virus in each sample. That code shows up in waste sooner than an infected person would test positive for COVID-19; before that individual shows symptoms.

As labs study more samples, more copies of the genetic code mean more cases could be coming.

Wisconsin State Lab of Hygiene Microbiologist Kayley Janssen hopes tracking these trends can lead to early detection.

Drs. Dagmara Antkiewicz (seated) and Kayley Janssen examine results of molecular PCR tests of...
Drs. Dagmara Antkiewicz (seated) and Kayley Janssen examine results of molecular PCR tests of wastewater samples.(Copyright UW Board of Regents 2020 Photo and video credit: Jan Klawitter, Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene/UW-Madison)

Their initial hope was to start with local public health officials and use the data to inform them, so they can make decisions in case they needed to make any changes within their communities,” Janssen said.

There is an online database where you can look up the activity in your community on the DHS website. It’s called the COVID-19: Wisconsin Coronavirus Wastewater Monitoring Network.

Scientists hope to collect from 100 sewer sheds across the state, which would account for 60% of Wisconsin’s population.

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