North Carolina Health Officials Are Monitoring Wastewater For COVID-19

North Carolina Health Officials Are Monitoring Wastewater For COVID-19

5:08pm May 24, 2021
State health officials say the wastewater monitoring program allows researchers to test an entire community at once and can reveal trends well before they’re found through individual testing. RICK BOWMER/AP

North Carolina’s Department of Health and Human Services is now including information about wastewater monitoring on its dashboard of COVID-19 data. 

Some people infected with COVID-19 shed the virus through feces, and it’s possible to detect those particles by monitoring wastewater. 

That’s why the state of North Carolina has been testing sewage at several wastewater treatment facilities since January. The program allows health officials to look at an entire community at once and can reveal trends well before they’re found through individual testing.

The state health department says results from the initiative could prompt local officials to increase testing or warn hospitals about a potential surge. 

The program is still limited though. Right now, just 11 wastewater treatment facilities, including plants in Pittsboro and Chapel Hill, are participating. Even if every plant opted in, that would still leave 40% of the state’s population out of the program, as they rely on septic systems. 

And, the science of wastewater monitoring isn’t quite settled yet. Researchers are still working to determine how long infected people shed the virus, and what proportion of them shed it in feces. 

For the most up-to-date information on coronavirus in North Carolina, visit our Live Updates blog here. WFDD wants to hear your stories — connect with us and let us know what you’re experiencing.

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