How disease outbreaks made wastewater surveillance more targeted

Wastewater surveillance, a key tool used by health officials to monitor the spread of COVID-19, is now becoming key in monkeypox and polio outbreak investigations, CNN reported Sept. 5.

Marlene Wolfe, PhD, an assistant professor of environmental health at Atlanta-based Emory University and co-principal investigator for WastewaterSCAN, a national wastewater surveillance initiative, told CNN it is "relatively easy" to adapt surveillance to test for new threats. 

"That's what we were just recently able to do for monkeypox, which was really exciting because we were able to roll it out very quickly, and we saw in a number of places, including Atlanta, that we had monkeypox DNA detectable in the wastewater from the time we started monitoring, which was pretty early in the outbreak," Dr. Wolfe said. "That's the advantage of having this kind of population-level network that allows us to speak to the overall trends in infectious disease outbreaks."

One of the systems following suit is New York City-based NYC Health + Hospitals, which expanded its wastewater surveillance program in August to test for polio and monkeypox alongside COVID-19 and the flu.

 

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