Sewage is the new gold for the public health scientists who track viruses – CBC

Influenza will now be tracked the same way COVID-19 is — by looking at our sewage

Aug 29, 2023

A provincial program that tracks the rise and fall of COVID-19 infections in Ontario communities through the monitoring of wastewater is expanding to include influenza, according to a lead investigator with the program at Western University.

Ontario’s COVID-19 wastewater surveillance program, run by a consortium of universities across the province, monitors sewage at 59 wastewater treatment plants in 34 different health units throughout the province in order to pinpoint where and when new waves of COVID-19 infections may emerge.

Now the province is expanding the program to include influenza to get ahead of future outbreaks, especially as the fall chill returns, sending more people indoors and in turn, creating ideal conditions for viruses to circulate.

“It’s really useful for any respiratory virus, really, because we don’t have good numbers on the number of people that are infected,” said Chris DeGroot, the lead investigator for the project launched in response to the pandemic in 2021. “By looking to the wastewater, we kind of get a composite of everything that’s going on among all the individuals in our community.”

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