One University of Georgia researcher is helping to keep track of COVID-19 cases by studying thousands of individuals at a time.
Dr. Erin Lipp is a professor of Environmental Health Science in UGA’s College of Public Health. She explains how wastewater-based epidemiology works.
"The evidence has suggested that when people are infected with the SARS Coronavirus, even if they're not symptomatic, they're shedding the virus in their feces. So we've really been able to look at an epidemic curve based on the pooled sample of the entire community. At the same time, we're also seeing case reports come in from the Department of Public Health."
Lipp began studying early last summer when cases began dramatically increasing, now testing is done twice weekly. She says the testing shows an accurate picture since it includes results of people who don’t know they’re infected or who don’t report it.
"We were often able to see increases before we saw the reported cases, which is consistent with what others have seen in other communities."
Recent numbers are encouraging.
"We had our highest level that we had seen over the entire course of the study in early January, and it's striking how much they've come down since then. We actually reached a level that we had not seen yet in our study and that was all of our water treatment plants were below our limit of detection for our method. I say that with a little bit of a grain of salt because we know that there's still probably virus out there."
You can hear more from Dr. Erin Lipp on Athens News Matters at WUGA.org.