By KIM BELLARD
The Conversation had a provocative article by Stanford professor Richard White about how America has a bad pattern of wasting infrastructure spending. In light of the surprisingly bipartisan $1 trillion infrastructure bill recently passed by the Senate, this seems like something we should be giving some serious thought to.
I’ll posit that we’re doing it again, by not adequately addressing the potential that our excreta, to be polite, offers to detect health issues, including but not limited to COVID-19.
No shit: excrement can be an important tool in public — and personal — health.
Take wastewater monitoring. It is not a new concept – for example, to track polio – and has been used during much of the current pandemic. According to the COVIDPoops19 dashboard, run by UC Merced’s School of Engineering, there are 55 countries with 89 dashboards monitoring the wastewater in 2,428 sites for signs of COVID-19. The project even has its own Twitter handle (@CovidPoops19).
According to Kaiser Health News, the University of California San Diego’s program has identified 85% of COVID-19 cases over the last year, using a largely automated monitoring system. Infected people shed virus particles long before they show symptoms, allowing such programs to act as an early detection system.
“University campuses especially benefit from wastewater surveillance as a means to avert COVID-19 outbreaks, as they’re full of largely asymptomatic populations, and are potential hot spots for transmission that necessitate frequent diagnostic testing,” said UCSD study first author Smruthi Karthikeyan, PhD. Any university debating vaccine or mask mandates in order for students to return to campus should seriously be considering this kind of monitoring mechanism.
Similarly, the University of Minnesota has been sampling the wastewater of 65% of the state’s population, and has correctly predicted the rise and fall of each of the three waves in the last year. North Carolina has also had success.Continue reading…