East Bay MUD wastewater samples show decline in COVID, rise in monkeypox

As part of the National Wastewater Surveillance System, California’s health and water officials coordinate with wastewater utilities, local health departments, universities, and laboratories to improve the ability to track the presence of COVID. 

East Bay Municipal Utilities District samples, three times a week; more if needed. "East Bay MUD has been working very closely, certainly during the COVID pandemic, with Stanford and others to provide samples of our wastewater for the East Bay," said EBMUD Spokeswoman Andrea Pook. 

East Bay MUD samples tell an important story. "So, currently, we’re clearly seeing a drop-off of COVID and we’re seeing an upswing of monkeypox. But, it does vary pretty significantly day to day. 

With far less COVID testing going on, that information becomes even more important. "So, the wastewater is really giving us a lot of good data about what’s happening with this pandemic," said UC Berkeley Infectious Disease Expert Dr. John Swartzberg.

Wastewater surveillance analysis can provide an early warning of the spread of viruses, bacteria and other organisms: from COVID to monkeypox, polio to influenza, Ebola to E.coli, even if the victims are not yet showing symptoms. 

"Once we detect it in the wastewater, we know that there’s going to be a number of individuals who are probably infected by a pathogen. To give folks in hospitals a few days, a few weeks of lead time in preparing for this infectious disease," said UNLV Infectious Disease Expert Professor Edwin Oh.

Health officials look for ongoing and increasing levels of the virus in wastewater to help them decide what to do to control or eliminate it. 

"We need better tools and wastewater testing is a great tool and it’s gonna turn out to be a fabulous tool I think," said Dr. Swartzberg. Automated, mass testing technology, already in the works, could analyze 24/7/365. "Can we, for example, take that mix and if we cannot discover every single bug that’s present in that complex mix, can we at least screen if for a hundred or two hundred different pathogens that we know of?" said Professor Oh.

SEE ALSO: CDC drops quarantine, screening recommendations for COVID-19

Researchers have said monitoring sewer systems is especially relevant for an early warning of pathogens used as biological weapons, perhaps by terrorists.