NPR

How What You Flush Is Helping Track Coronavirus

Researchers are testing sewage in hopes of getting a jump on COVID-19 outbreaks in communities — monitoring for when they begin and how quickly they spread.
The East Bay Municipal Utility District Wastewater Treatment Plant in Oakland, California. Stanford researchers are testing sewage in hopes of tracking the emergence and spread of COVID-19 outbreaks. Source: Justin Sullivan

With coronavirus testing still lagging behind targets, many health officials are searching for other ways to assess the spread of the outbreak. One possibility? Looking at what we flush.

SARS-Cov-2 is often spread through sneezes and coughs, but it also leaves the human body through our waste. Scientists around the world are now testing sewage for the virus, using it as a collective sample to measure infection levels among thousands of people.

While the field of "wastewater epidemiology" existed before the

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