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Monitoring detects elevated levels of COVID-19 in wastewater in Beaufort

Published: Jun. 22, 2021 at 8:55 PM EDT
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BEAUFORT, N.C. (WITN) -In the past two weeks, testing through the North Carolina Wastewater Monitoring Network has found increasing levels of the virus that causes COVID19, in wastewater from the Town of Beaufort.

The wastewater treatment plant has been a COVID-19 monitoring facility since January 2021.

“As a proactive step in protecting our community, the Town agreed to participate in the statewide program,” said Beaufort Mayor Rett Newton. “We are one of 10 communities in North Carolina participating in this early warning detection program.”

The state website that keeps track of this data does not show an increase in any of the other ten communities.

The number of new COVID-19 cases reported in the Beaufort area has not increased recently, but fewer people are seeking testing statewide. The data is reflective of the population serviced by the Town of Beaufort’s sewer system.

Viral particles can be detected in wastewater before increases in case counts or hospitalizations.

This means that monitoring wastewater at treatment plants can provide an early warning of disease increase in a community. However, results can be affected by temporary changes in the population.

“The ability to track the SARS-CoV-2 virus in wastewater offers an important contribution to overall public health protection. This is because a high number of infected individuals go untested, but all infected individuals, whether with or without symptoms, can transmit the virus to others,” said Rachel Noble, Professor at UNC Chapel Hill Institute of Marine Sciences.

Local health officials are urging all residents 12 and over who are not yet vaccinated to find a vaccine location near them. Safe and effective vaccines are widely available.

“This is an important reminder that COVID-19 is still here and still a risk for people who are not fully vaccinated,” said Nina Oliver, Carteret County health director. “COVID-19 vaccines are the best way to protect yourself and others.”

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