ECU tests students’ sewage for COVID-19 to detect cases


RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Using raw sewage to save lives.

If you’re infected with COVID-19 and go to the bathroom, the virus is in your waste.

That includes people who are COVID-19 positive but are asymptomatic.

“Some people don’t show any symptoms so they may not know they have it and are unknowingly spreading it to classmates, dorm mates, possibly between student and instructor,” said East Carolina University Environmental Health Professor Guy Iverson.

That is why every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday samples are collected outside ECU residence halls.

By that afternoon or the next day, they know whether there is a likely COVID-19 case inside the building.

And it’s working.

Iverson said they have already identified a cluster in a dorm where students didn’t know they had the virus.

“Through that, we were able to identify additional cases and get those people isolated and after that isolation occurred the very next sampling event we saw a drop in the number of copies in the virus from that particular dorm,” he said.

ECU has a designated isolation residence hall for students who test positive for the virus.

Iverson hopes this not only makes students, parents, and staff feel safer about being on campus but will also stop the spread by unknown carriers to places off campus including home.

“The goal is safety and trying the keep the university open and operational without the formation of clusters,” he said.

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