OSU study shows evidence of COVID-19 in sewer system

Currently, sewer surveillance cannot determine how many people are infected.

Posted: Aug 27, 2020 8:12 AM
Updated: Aug 27, 2020 11:21 AM

CORVALLIS, Ore. -- New data from Oregon State University's trace study shows there is evidence of COVID-19 in the Corvallis sewer system. 

Tyler Radniecki, OSU associate professor of environmental engineering, said genetic evidence in Corvallis wastewater of the virus that causes COVID-19 has been consistently detected at moderate levels for the past month following a late July spike. 

Currently, sewer surveillance cannot put an exact number on how many people are infected, but it can act as the “bloodhound” that sniffs the virus out. 

"We can monitor its rise and fall, detect priority hotspots and then alert the appropriate health authorities, medical researchers and other decision-makers who can go in and take it from there with their knowledge, skills and technologies,” Radniecki said. 

Right now, there is no indication that the virus can survive in sewage. 

Radniecki along with his colleague Christine Kelly have been leading the wastewater project since late May. They will continue their research for the next two and half years as part of a $1.2 million Oregon Health Authority-funded effort. 

During fall term at OSU, researchers will sample wastewater from the university’s campuses in Corvallis and Bend, and at the Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport. 

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