Oregon State University and Oregon Health Authority researchers detected the coronavirus in wastewater samples in Corvallis and Albany in two consecutive weeks earlier this month.
The researchers from the College of Agricultural Sciences have been working with the Oregon Health Authority on testing samples from 24 small and midsized communities throughout the state.
The virus was detected in Albany and Corvallis the weeks beginning Oct. 4 and Oct. 11. The virus was not detected in Corvallis the week of Oct. 18, but no information was available on Albany testing for that interval.
Of the towns tested, only in Hood River was the virus not detected in at least one of the three periods.
Oregon Health Authority officials noted that even if the virus was not detected, it does not mean that the community is free of COVID-19. Instead, it means that the virus may still be present in the area but below detection levels.
The monitoring serves as an early warning system to inform the OHA if COVID-19 is spreading silently in communities. It is meant to help public officials try to prevent potential outbreaks or, if necessary, move resources to a community. OHA launched the project in the early fall with funding from the CDC.
“We are focused on keeping track of COVID-19 infections in the population through time and space, identifying hotspots of cases where public health monitoring should be directed,” said Taal Levi, associate professor of fisheries and wildlife in the OSU College of Agricultural Sciences.
Wastewater analysis is being used as a COVID-19 monitoring tool in cities around the globe, the researchers say, and it can be paired with testing of individuals to corroborate results and expand monitoring by public health officials.
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