Sewage Shows Coronavirus Spread
The SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus appeared in East Asia in
late 2019, and was spreading world-wide in early 2020.
It causes the severe acute respiratory syndrome
known as COVID-19.
The general public and the media referred to both the virus and the disease
COVID-19 is a respiratory disease.
It leads to a life-threatening condition similar to pneumonia.
It's spread by people shedding viral particles in their breath,
when coughing or even just breathing, within a range of about two meters.
It's encased in a lipid outer layer, so soap can destroy it.
Unfortunately, infected people are contagious before becoming symptomatic.
The primary human-to-human transmission mode is by respiratory droplets,
and also via fomites (skin cells, hair, clothing, bedding),
but a significant fraction of patients shed the viral RNA in feces.
Early Coronavirus Signs in Sewage
Researchers in the Netherlands were the first to find that the
SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus could appear in municipal wastewater
systems before cases were officially detected and reported by
public health systems.
Presence of SARS-Coronavirus-2 in sewage
of SARS-Coronavirus-2 in sewage"
by Gertjan Medema, Leo Heijnen, Goffe Elsinga, Ronald Italiaander,
and Anke Brouwer,
reports on a project that sampled sewage at 7 cities and Schiphol Airport.
They took their first samples on 6 February 2020,
there was no sign of the virus.
The first COVID-19 case in the Netherlands was reported on 27 February.
By 5 March, viral genetic material was being detected
at six of the eight sites.
Epidemiologists believe that it is unlikely that wastewater will
will become an important transmission pathway for SARS-CoV-2 or similar
However, increasing circulation of the virus in the population
will increase the virus load in the cities' sewer systems.
They detected viral genetic material in the wastewater of the
Amersfoort treatment plant on 5 March, before any cases had been
The virus was circulating in the population before patients had
become symptomatic and been diagnosed.
Toilet in the Homegrown Fantasy coffee shop in
The researchers concluded that sewage surveillance could be a
sensitive tool to monitor the circulation of the virus
in the population.
Sewage surveillance could monitor the presence of the virus in the
population, and be an early warning tool for future surges in cases.
By 2021 that monitoring work was well underway.
COVID-19 Wastewater-Based Epidemiology
See especially their
and their interactive
Out of Toilet Paper? Consult Rabelais