Wastewater Testing Surveillance Laboratory
Wastewater testing is an early-warning system to detect Covid-19 in communities. Chisasibi is running a pilot project this year to try out the new technology in Eeyou Istchee.
The Health Board are working with local and regional partners, including the Cree Nation of Chisasibi, wastewater operators, Chisasibi Eeyou Resource and Research Institute (CERRI), and the National Microbiological Lab to develop the project.
Testing wastewater has become a useful tool for public health officials in many jurisdictions during the pandemic. It has helped them in the past to detect the coronavirus if it is circulating in their respective communities. This has allowed an earlier and faster response to potential infection outbreaks
While Covid-19 is mainly a respiratory disease but can spread through small droplets of bodily fluids, people who are infected with the coronavirus can sometimes shed inactive traces of the virus in their fecal matter. When flushed down the toilet, it goes into the sewer system and becomes wastewater.
*Covid-19 does not spread through wastewater.*
WHY IS WASTEWATER TESTING SO USEFUL?
Testing wastewater regularly for Covid-19 is one way to know whether the virus is currently circulating in a community. It’s also one way to reassure that the virus is not present in communities. Either way, wastewater testing strengthens the community safety net against Covid-19 virus.
As wastewater testing is being established in Eeyou Istchee, it can become an additional layer of protection that works with other measures that are in place incase there is an outbreak in the community.
Example: If traces of the virus or any if it's variants are found in the wastewater samples, it could help Public Health to decide whether or not that there’s a need for more screening tests in the community. Screening tests also help identify asymptomatic infections such as people who are infected with the coronavirus but feel fine, or have mild symptoms that they don’t feel sick enough to go get tested.
HOW DOES WASTEWATER TESTING WORK?
Wastewater samples are collected from the sewer system three (3) times a week, and are tested for traces of the virus. The test results are then carefully analyzed, taking the community’s context into account, to decide whether further action is needed. If traces of the virus are found in wastewater samples, it could be an early sign that an outbreak is starting. This “early warning system” can help guide the recommendations to scale down or increase preventive measures against the virus.
Knowing whether the coronavirus is present in a community, this helps the Infectious Disease team react earlier to reduce the potential spread of infection. This, in turn, could limit the risk of some people from ever getting sick by the disease.