By Daniel Webster, dWeb.News
Newswise — MILWAUKEE A team of academic researchers, practitioners in public health, and state and local environmental agencies worked together to create the wastewater surveillance system in their respective jurisdictions. This was part of the COVID-19 response. Sandra McLellan, a professor of freshwater science at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee, was the lead investigator of the project. She said that knowledge transfer and co-development among academic labs and public health agencies is crucial to understand the results. “So, the problem is that there’s a dearth of relationships. McLellan stated that the use of wastewater samples for public health surveillance is a new concept. McLellan stated that wastewater utilities and health agencies across the country must partner with McLellan to share their experiences and trade questions. McLellan stated that building one-on-one relationships requires time and resources. Therefore, the staff must be integrated into the actual projects. Dominique Brossard, who is a professor of life science communication at UW-Madison and McLellan, convened a national panel consisting of experts from academia as well as wastewater utilities and health departments. Brossard stated that it is important to be aware of all aspects of potential technology. This includes the legal, ethical, and social implications. Brossard also suggested that talking to key stakeholders such as business leaders is important. “Public health departments must ensure that they communicate clearly with their audience if they are going to use this technology. Already, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is building infrastructure for a national effort. Health departments can submit wastewater data and metadata to the CDC National Wastewater Surveillance System’s portal. They will then receive real-time results that will assist them in their COVID-19 responses. Public health departments in 31 states, two U.S. Territories, and three municipalities used CDC funds to support their wastewater surveillance activities as of June 2021. They also received real-time results from McLellan to assist them with their COVID-19 response. The Department of Health Services in Wisconsin and the State Laboratory of Hygiene in Wisconsin partnered with UW-Milwaukee for SARS-CoV-2 testing at 70 municipal water treatment plants. This was done in the summer 2020. Since December 2020, the data they generated is publicly available on a dashboard. This partnership was made possible by the Department of Health Services and the State Laboratory of Hygiene. The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation provided funding for the research.
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