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CDC launches new tool to track COVID-19 in wastewater

The CDC says wastewater gives health experts a way to track the spread of COVID because the virus can be detected without anyone having to actually get tested.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is launching a new tool to help track COVID-19 variants and potential surges.

It's a wastewater surveillance system that's being included in the agency's data tracker website. 

At the moment, there's no data coming in from Kentucky or Indiana. Once those states are added Kentuckians and Hoosiers will be able to search their county and see if the virus is showing up in their neighborhood.

During a teleconference Friday, the CDC said it initiated the National Wastewater Surveillance System in September of 2020. It was a grassroots effort by academic researchers and wastewater utilities and has quickly become a nationwide surveillance system.

The agency is now working with health departments across the country to include results state-by-state and within each county of the state.

COVID WASTEWATER SURVEILLANCE TRACKER

This is nothing new for health experts in Louisville. In 2020, WHAS11's FOCUS team showed how researchers at UofL were testing wastewater collected by Louisville's Metro Sewer District (MSD) to try and stay ahead of outbreaks.

RELATED: Down the drain: Sewer water could be an early warning sign of COVID-19

In the summer of 2021, UofL researchers also tested wastewater to track the delta variant in Kentucky. 

Wastewater has shown to be a leading indicator of what is actually going to happen in the community," said Fuqua. “So it provides kind of like an early warning system,” Josh Fuqua said. 

RELATED: UofL researchers track delta variant with wastewater testing

The CDC also says wastewater gives health experts a way to track the spread of COVID because the virus can be detected without anyone having to actually get tested.

The virus can be found in wastewater because once a person is infected with COVID-19, it multiplies within them. And, just like some other viruses, scientists say people shed it in their stool or urine.  

RELATED: FOCUS: Louisville wastewater used for early detection of COVID-19 in community

The wastewater method has the potential to also track norovirus, the flu, and even opioid use.

RELATED: Wastewater from Kentucky prisons will be studied in hopes of fighting coronavirus

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