Clean Water Current
Wastewater Epidemiology Continues to Provide Public Health Value During Pandemic; NACWA Highlighted in USA Today
Monitoring raw wastewater influent to identify the distribution of viral diseases, such as COVID-19, continues to show its value over the course of the pandemic. With the most recent spike in infections, public health officials have been able to track the underlying omicron variant in wastewater to help understand the extent and duration of community outbreak.
For example, NACWA members the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) and BioBot Analytics were among the first utility/epidemiology company collaboration collecting these samples to report a significantly steep decline in viral signal—possibly indicating the highly infectious wave of omicron variant could be weakening as we progress into the new year.
While New England witnessed the earliest spike in omicron’s surge shortly after the Thanksgiving holiday, the recent data indicating a drop in omicron’s presence could be a trend for what is to come for the rest of the country grappling with high infection rates. USA Today reported on this news and reached out to NACWA for comment and background on the work members are doing in this space. This story was also picked up by other media outlets.
NACWA supports this ongoing innovative science and continues to reiterate the importance that local, regional, and state health departments work in partnership with POTWs collecting this type of epidemiological information. While these collaborations are helpful, especially as we have seen during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is key that these relationships remain voluntary in nature and funding is provided from state or federal health agencies.
As more viral loading data is collected from utilities around the country and analyzed by health departments, wastewater-based epidemiology is showcasing its potential to make informed public health decisions even as the virus evolves into new variants. NACWA applauds members participating in wastewater-based epidemiology and their continued stewardship in protecting public health in this innovative manner.
If members have questions, please contact Emily Remmel, NACWA’s Director of Regulatory Affairs.