Madison County to track COVID-19 in communities and campuses through wastewater surveillance

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WAMPSVILLE — Madison County Health Department (MCDOH) has teamed up with the SARS-CoV-2 Early Warning Surveillance Platform (SARS2-EWSP), in an a collaborative effort between Syracuse University, SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, and SUNY Upstate Medical University; Quadrant Biosciences; and local wastewater treatment operators to study wastewater in Madison County for early warning signs of COVID-19.

As part of the effort, wastewater influent samples will be collected from Cazenovia’s, SUNY Morrisville’s and Colgate University’s wastewater treatment plants.

By testing the wastewater, officials aim to track the COVID-19 virus in the community oftentimes before positive cases are seen in residents.

“Surveillance of the wastewater in our community will serve as an early warning detection system, which will help us better identify hotspots earlier in our community,” said Madison County Health Director Eric Faisst.

“Wastewater surveillance is a common surveillance tool for identifying the presence of various viruses in a population. The idea that we can use it to detect and identify COVID-19 is an asset to our community, especially in our college communities,” Faisst added.

In the coming weeks, Madison County will welcome back more than 4,600 college-age students, some of whom are from states and countries that are currently on New York State’s travel advisory listing, officials say, adding that COVID-19 can spread quickly in higher-populated areas and in close living quarters, such as college campuses. By monitoring the wastewater in its college communities, health officials hope to be able to identify, and possibly prevent or minimize, any potential spread within the community. 

Wastewater samples will be collected from the wastewater treatment plants twice a week.  Those samples are sent to Quadrant Biosciences for testing and analysis to see if there is any detection of COVID-19. Sample collection started in Madison County on July 15.

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