CASPER, Wyo. — Testing sewage wastewater for the presence of the virus that causes COVID-19 is showing “some promising early signs” as a way for health officials to monitor the prevalence of the virus in a community, Wyoming Department of Health (WDH) Public Information Officer Kim Deti said Thursday.
She added that the Wyoming Public Health Laboratory has been analyzing samples taken from wastewater/sewage at the following nine locations:
- Yellowstone National Park
- Green River
- Rock Springs
“It’s wastewater that counts for this application because people shed the virus in their feces,” Deti explained. “At this point, it is too early to draw many conclusions based on one data point.”
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“The longer-term trend has the potential to be more important as we gain more data and understanding of the data. Our staff considers the effort to be a learning process, but there have been some promising early signs. Again, we are at an early stage in this effort.”
The Wyoming Technology Coronavirus Coalition provided a number of recommendations in June aimed to expand COVID-19 testing capacity in Wyoming.
One of those recommendations was for the state to “explore testing wastewater in every community’s sewage system regularly to identify and monitor outbreaks.” The coalition said that research had shown the virus could be detected in wastewater.
Deti says that the coalition is not involved with the project.
Wyoming State Health Officer Dr. Alexia Harrist addressed the wastewater testing efforts during a Wednesday, Aug. 5 press conference. She said that in addition to the 9 testing locations participating in the effort “many more are pending.”
Harrist added that testing at “all initial sites have shown some indication of SARS-CoV-2 in wastewater.” SARS-CoV-2 is the virus that causes COVID-19.
While the WDH’s wastewater testing has shown evidence of the presence of the virus in wastewater, Harrist said further information is needed before the department can determine whether this form of testing is useful for health officials in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We will be trending this data overtime to monitor how this concentration changes and whether it can be used to estimate prevalence in each community,” she said.
The Latest Statistics from the Wyoming Department of Health:
What to do if you are feeling sick: In the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, the Casper-Natrona County Health Department says that people who are feeling sick or exhibiting symptoms should contact their primary physician.
If you do not have a primary care provider, and live in Natrona County, please contact the COVID-19 hotline, operated by the Casper-Natrona County Department of Health. The line is open Monday – Friday 8:00 am – 5:00 pm 577-9892. Hotline services are intended for Natrona County residents and may not be able to provide specific information to persons calling from out of county.
Officials ask that you please do not self-report to the Emergency Room. Persons experiencing problems breathing should call 9-11.
For general inquiries and non-symptom related questions about COVID-19, please contact the Casper-Natrona County Health Department via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Practice Social Distancing by putting distance between yourself and other people. This is especially important for people who are at higher risk of getting very sick.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick
- Stay home if you’re sick
- Cover coughs and sneezes. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze or use the inside of your elbow.
- Clean AND disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily. This includes tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks.
A list of area closures attributed to COVID-19 are available here.