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Pima County to use wastewater data as COVID-19 ‘early warning sentinel’ | Local news – Tucson, Arizona

Tucson, Arizona 2022-05-28 14:00:00 –

Cases of COVID-19 are increasing again in Pima County, as local scientists have come up with ways to measure infection levels faster and alert the community sooner.

The solution flows into our sewer, where wastewater researchers are focused on establishing baseline SARS-CoV-2 levels.

The mechanism is as follows. Infected people can shed the virus from their faeces and detect it in wastewater without symptoms.

“Once we know the outflow rate of the (sewage) utility service area community, we can use it to predict the actual number of infections in the community,” he said. Ian Pepper, An environmental microbiologist and director of the University of Arizona Institute, he conducts wastewater testing. Pepper and his team will publish a paper on this topic within the next few weeks.Science of the Total Environment. “

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As early as July, the county will launch a new data dashboard on these findings.Will be similar to the one created in Tempeh The early days of a pandemic. Once emission rates are established, Pepper said it will be possible to estimate the total number of infections within the same day.

Also, as COVID-19 concentration levels increase in sewage, the health sector warns the community and makes them aware of high-risk people. Mary Leader Bee, Chief epidemiologist at the county health department.

“We provide education, testing, vaccination, and treatment options for communities at highest risk of poor health,” she said. “Wastewater monitoring provides additional information that the general public needs, especially during this time of’COVID-19 Fatigue’. “

County rates rise

The pandemic fatigue contributed to the increase in the county’s case rate, increasing from 74 per 100,000 in the week of May 11 to 104 per 100,000 in the week of May 18. This week it increased to 162 per 100,000. Alarm turning point: 200 per 100,000.

The county has already reached a negative marker with a positive rate, ideally less than 10%, but this week it reached 16%.

Hospitalization, the last bell, is also increasing, but it is progressing slowly. 27 COVID-19 infections in the week until May 21st.

The current Omicron subvariant, called BA.2.12.1, has not caused so many hospitalizations, but more and more people are getting sick. This is partly due to people’s satisfaction with masking in high-risk environments. Dr. Theresa Cullen, Director of Public Health in the county.

“If they are in a social situation inside, they need to wear a mask,” Karen said of the county’s current risk level and protecting the public health of all. “None of us can really predict what we will see in the future. We are worried that more people will get sick.”

People are also in the county WebsiteThis was changed to minimize confusion and is now Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.. The new CDC site measures COVID-19 illness in the healthcare system and is a space for those who are still at greatest risk, including the elderly in the community, people with weakened immunity, and people with disabilities. To secure.

“What they want to do is ensure that the hospital system is responsive,” Karen said of the focus of the CDC site. “From a public health perspective, yes, we can, but from an individual perspective, people are at risk. Your risk is currently high.”

Understand the potential risks

Hospitalization rates during a pandemic are considered a “delay indicator” of what is happening. On the other hand, wastewater monitoring is not only a predictor of hospitalization, but also the current infection for which the SARS-CoV-2 wastewater baseline has been established.

This is very important now that fewer people are reporting test results.

“As an epidemiologist, the benefits of wastewater surveillance were impressive. We have data on both symptomatic and non-symptomatic individuals,” said Derby, the county’s chief epidemiologist. “More people are using home tests that may not have been reported, so we can understand the potential risks to the community in the event of community-level infection changes.”

In the future, the county will be able to monitor other health problems through wastewater, she said.

Extending wastewater monitoring to monitor health threats in other regions, such as estimating opioid use, measuring antibiotic-resistant strains, and detecting new strains of influenza that could lead to another respiratory pandemic. I’m looking forward to it, “she said.

Wastewater monitoring is already widely used in developing countries as a way to track polio incidence. Once detected, she said the vaccine campaign was beginning to stop spreading.



Research engineer Nick Betts-Children and Erica Stark analyzing samples at the WEST Center Institute in Tucson.


Chris Richards / University of Arizona


There are seven wastewater treatment facilities in Pima County, and four are currently being drawn. This effort is being coordinated with the support of the CDC. CDC for September 2020 National wastewater monitoring system Track SARS-CoV-2.

Early Warning Guard

Pepper, along with UA, is important to monitor wastewater when the pandemic is rampant, but even more if there are few cases “in case you can see the virus coming back.” Said it was important.

Researchers working with Pepper through Water & Energy Sustainable Technology (WEST Center) are also investigating emission rates in several communities in Yuma and Florida with the help of one of Pepper’s former students.

The virus is usually found in wastewater samples more than a week before people begin to show symptoms.

“This is an early warning sentinel to recognize that the virus is present, increasing, or decreasing in the community,” he said. Jeff Prebat, Analytical chemist and deputy director of the county’s Regional Wastewater Reclamation Bureau.

He said the benefits extend beyond public health and could help prevent the economic closure that occurred at the beginning of this pandemic.

“It was a disaster what we did to our community, the economic impact was astounding,” he said of the COVID-19 pandemic. “With wastewater data, we can better manage it and monitor it better.”

If data is a concern, he said, he would promptly notify vulnerable areas and enhance testing and precautions.

That’s what Peppers and others did at UA to resume during a pandemic. Then they want it to work around the county.

Reporter Patty Machelor (806-7754) or pmachelor@tucson.com

Pima County to use wastewater data as COVID-19 ‘early warning sentinel’ | Local news Source link Pima County to use wastewater data as COVID-19 ‘early warning sentinel’ | Local news

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