Researchers emphasize importance of wastewater surveillance to monitor COVID
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - After delays in Hawaii’s wastewater monitoring program, DOH officials said they have started processing some wastewater samples to monitor COVID.
They hope to eventually post those results.
Meanwhile, at the University of Hawaii, researchers have been working on a blueprint for the state to use to sample and survey wastewater efficiently.
This process could predict waves and see what variants are dominating.
“By looking at the wastewater, we are able to basically sample everybody in the community who has come across the virus,” said Tao Yan, a UH professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and the Water Resources Research Center.
Yan said with so much reliance on at-home testing now, the official testing sites aren’t seeing the whole picture.
“That has its own bias, because not everybody goes to get tested, not every sample gets tested,” said Yan.
So that’s where wastewater comes in. It helped the state find Omicron before someone tested positive for it.
“It is important that we keep track of them say how they move in terms of their genetic composition,” said Yan.
The Department of Health sends their samples to the mainland where they’re analyzed as part of the CDC program.
They’re slated to start their own program this summer, but delays and hiring issues mean that they haven’t had the manpower to start it up. Local testing would mean results a week sooner.
Researchers at UH have been collaborating with the DOH on the plan.
“Once we develop the method, we’ll be able to help other people to use the methods in order to apply to the research,” said post-doctoral researcher Doris Di.
They believe this monitoring will help communities throughout Hawaii.
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