RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – In an effort to track the spread of COVID-19, the North Carolina health department is looking for viral particles in feces across the state.
Since the beginning of the year, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services has been testing wastewater samples to look for COVID-19.
Once infected with COVID-19, a person will shed non-infectious viral particles in their feces. If enough people are infected with COVID-19 in an area, the particles can be detected in feces.
So NCDHHS started the North Carolina Wastewater Monitoring Network, which works with 11 wastewater utilities, eight local public health departments and researchers at the University of North Carolina.
“Wastewater monitoring is a new tool that will help us track the spread of COVID-19 in participating communities even as fewer people are being tested,” said State Epidemiologist Dr. Zack Moore. “This can be an early warning system and allow health officials to take actions to stop the spread if trends are increasing.”
Measuring the virus that causes COVID-19 in wastewater allows NCDHHS to track COVID-19 trends in an entire community served by the same sewer system with one sample.
Wastewater monitoring detects virus shed by people who are symptomatic, as well as people who are asymptomatic.
On Friday, NCDHHS expanded its COVID-19 dashboard to include the results of the wastewater surveillance program.