Houston Testing Wastewater for Covid-19

DALLAS (KRLD) - Not everyone gets a COVID test, but everyone goes to the bathroom.

   

Sewage from all of Houston's 39 wastewater plants is being sampled to look for COVID-19 because the virus is shed in human waste.

Lauren Hopkins, chief environmental science officer at the city of Houston's health department says It gives them a snapshot of how much virus is in the waste and that tells them about the spread of the virus and up or down trends in certain areas.  

"We can look at how the virus is changing in space and in time.  We can use that information to know where we're seeing may be an increase in virus so we can work harder in those parts of town in our interventions and know where to target it."

Hopkins says theoretically, testing wastewater is a better indication of how much virus is out there. 

"You don't have to have people come to test.  In areas where we are seeing large concentrations of the virus, we are seeing the positivity rate of the virus to be high."

She says this technology allows them to more closely look at congregant facilities on a small scale, say homeless shelters or nursing homes. 

If the virus is found there, strike teams can be sent in for testing and tracing.  She says the virus is found in human waste before the person who has it has symptoms.

The city has been doing this for a little more than 17 weeks and collect samples twice a week. This technology isn't new.  It's been used before to look for areas with flu outbreaks or high opioid use