Monitoring sewage data can help act as an early warning system for an outbreak, say scientists, which is particularly helpful in COVID-19 times as sewers regularly collect feces and urine which can contain coronavirus from infected people.
The near-real-time data has already been found to be useful in limiting the spread of the virus: from the U.S. to France, researchers around the world have been sampling wastewater to monitor SARS-CoV-2, with the Netherlands even discovering the presence of the virus before any case was officially confirmed in the country.
“SARS-CoV-2 can appear in feces within three days of infection, which is much sooner than the time taken for people to develop symptoms severe enough for them to seek hospital care — up to two weeks — and get an official diagnosis,” says Tamar Kohn, an environmental virologist at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, to the journal Nature.
Wastewater monitoring can help determine whether areas should ease up or enforce lockdowns. It can also prevent a second wave of infections as communities would be able to take preventative measures on time should the data show the coronavirus returning to communities.