Wastewater sampling may give advanced warning of potential COVID-19 outbreaks

Sep 21, 2020

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Wastewater sampling for coronavirus on campus and in the surrounding community could alert University decision makers to a potential outbreak several days before individuals exhibit symptoms of an infection. The initiative — part of Penn State’s multilayered approach to test, monitor and mitigate for COVID-19 — could enable leaders to take swift actions to minimize the virus’s spread with the goal of helping to protect the health and safety of the community.

“Research has shown that people infected with SARS-CoV-2 shed the virus in their feces,” said Heather Preisendanz, associate professor of agricultural and biological engineering, who initiated the wastewater monitoring effort. “As a result, sampling wastewater for the virus has the potential to give an overall snapshot of its prevalence in the community, as well as identify general locations where the virus is present.” Data are shared daily with Penn State’s COVID-19 Operations Control Center and regularly with University leadership.

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