ECU testing wastewater from residence halls to detect coronavirus
GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) -East Carolina University will test wastewater from residence halls this semester in an effort to detect coronavirus as early as possible to reduce transmission and avoid outbreaks where students live.
“It’s a game changer from the perspective that it gives you an opportunity to identify and isolate before clusters appear,” said Jim Menke, manager of ECU’s surveillance testing project. “The goal is to find someone who is not exhibiting symptoms before they infect others.”
Several departments across campus are collaborating to collect, process and analyze wastewater samples triweekly from residence halls. Follow-up diagnostic testing will be conducted with students if any samples come back positive.
University officials say carriers of the coronavirus, both symptomatic and asymptomatic, shed the virus and viral debris in their waste for 14 to 21 days.
About 1,900 students are living on campus this spring. COVID testing is required for on-campus students and is recommended for students off campus.
In all, more than 1,000 samples will be pulled from manholes outside of residence halls this spring. The testing could continue into the summer.
ECU officials talked with staff at other universities such as UNC-Charlotte and the University of Arizona, which was one of the first in the nation to adopt wastewater screening among student populations and has served as a model for other institutions.
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