Transcript of Sewage Surveillance Research Program

How does the Sewage Surveillance Research Program help fight COVID-19?

Dr. Richard Broome, Executive Director of Health Protection NSW: So, NSW Health has established a sewage surveillance program. And we're currently, we have around about 70 to 80 sites in New South Wales and we're increasing all the time. And this program, every week we sample sewage from a range of sites all over New South Wales, and it provides an early warning about perhaps cases of covid in areas where we don't know there are.

How is the sewage tested for COVID-19?

Dr. Richard Broome: So, each week. People from water utilities, like Sydney Water or in regional areas local councils, they go out and collect samples from their local sewage treatment plants, and then those samples are provided back to Sydney Water who process them and then they provide the results to us and we're working very closely with Sydney Water to make sure that, where the testing is taking place is useful from a public health perspective as well.

How reliable are the results?

Dr. Richard Broome: So each time we get a positive result we consider how likely it is to be a real result, but generally speaking, the tests that we use are extremely specific to the virus. So if we do detect a positive it's very likely to be the case that there is some fragments of the virus in sewage.

What does it mean when COVID-19 is detected?

Dr. Richard Broome: If we do detect COVID in the sewage, it does mean that there's possibly a person who has had COVID either at the time, or someone who's visited the area. So when we get a positive, we look at the result and whether there are already known cases in the catchment. And if there aren't, it could be an indication that there's somebody there who is infectious that we haven't already identified, but it could be somebody who's previously had the infection, or someone who is just visiting the area.

Can you tell which household COVID-19 is from?

Dr. Richard Broome: So if we identify COVID in in sewage, it does indicate that perhaps a person has been in there in the sewage catchment who has COVID, but we really don't know a great deal more than that we can't say whether it comes from a particular place, or from a particular household or from a particular person. So it just provides an indication, and and what we do is we use that information to go out to the community and say, look, you know, we don't know of any case at the moment so it's really, really important that if you do have symptoms of COVID to come forward and get tested as soon as possible.

There are more than 300 testing locations in NSW. To find your nearest clinic visit NSW Government - COVID-19 testing clinics.

Current as at: Friday 6 November 2020
Contact page owner: Health Protection NSW