WASHTENAW COUNTY, MI — Eastern Michigan University will soon begin testing wastewater for infectious diseases such as COVID-19, the university recently announced.
The university is partnering with the Michigan-based firmto track the presence of the virus in wastewater flowing from residence halls and apartment complexes on the EMU campus, according to a news release. While the monitoring process is not diagnostic, it could provide an early detection of asymptomatic cases, the university said.
“Wastewater testing is another important method to track the prevalence of COVID-19 on our campus,” EMU President James Smith said. “The results of the tests will help us pinpoint any concerning trends and expand individual testing among specific populations as necessary.”
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Wastewater surveillance is a fast-evolving science, according to the university. It works for both asymptomatic and symptomatic people, which officials said is an important distinction because it has been shown that individuals with the coronavirus may not show symptoms at all or it may take two weeks to show symptoms.
Other universities, such as University of Arizona and Utah State University, are doing similar testing.
Tests have shown that wastewater contains infectious biomarkers such as COVID-19 RNA, which can signal the growth or reduction of the virus in a community or around a campus.
Such advance notice will provide vital information for EMU and local healthcare officials to both predict potential outbreaks and to monitor if the infectious diseases are lessening in the university community, the school said.
The Aquasight team visited the EMU campus Sept. 11 and Sept. 14 to install sampling units at various sewage lines around campus. Sampling and subsequent lab testing will begin in the upcoming weeks.
EMU officials said the testing is just the newest step in several measures taken to keep the campus safe during the coronavirus pandemic. The #EMUSafe initiative includes COVID-19 testing that includes all students moving into residence halls, student athletes and other specific populations, a daily health screening and check-in process, the mandatory wearing of face coverings while on campus, modification of classroom space to provide physical distancing, and extensive campus signage and continued education on how to stay safe and healthy.
According to the most recent info, EMU has reported 19 students have tested positive for the coronavirus.
This article originally appeared on the Detroit Patch