Future monitoring of COVID-19’s prevalence in the Capital Regional District might rely on what’s flowing underground, instead of swabbing noses.
The B.C. Centre for Disease Control recently announced plans to expand wastewater surveillance of COVID-19 and other infectious diseases outside of the Lower Mainland. Island Health polled wastewater utilities in its jurisdiction on their willingness to submit samples to the BCCDC and the CRD said it would be interested in the program.
The region, however, has not yet received a formal request to participate in the expanded monitoring.
Taking part would be a seamless effort for the region as it already routinely samples wastewater and the weekly COVID testing could coincide with that, the CRD said. All analytical and shipping costs would be covered by the BCCDC or Island Health.
“It does not cost a lot of additional funding for us, we are already sampling wastewater,” Larisa Hutcheson, general manager of environmental services, said at the July 13 CRD board meeting.
The CRD said monitoring the infection levels through wastewater is especially valuable as fewer residents go out to get swabbed themselves.
“Wastewater COVID results cannot provide an exact number of infected individuals in the community, but they can provide high-level information about changes in overall rates of community infection over time,” a staff report said.
The CRD previously participated in a COVID-19 wastewater study with the University of Victoria and a private-sector company from December 2020 to July 2021. That study used sampling from the McLoughlin, Macaulay, Clover and Saanich Peninsula wastewater sites. UVic and the partner company applied for a grant to continue their study past last July but weren’t successful and sampling ceased.
Most COVID-19 amounts weren’t detectable in the local systems during the first and second waves due to low transmission on Vancouver Island during those times. Wastewater COVID-19 levels were more frequently detected during the third uptick of infections, the CRD said.
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