Most people don’t even think about it, but every time they go to the bathroom they help scientists collect data.
Wastewater from cities across the country is used to track COVID-19 trends, including variant types.
Dr. Philip Huang, director of health and human services for Dallas County, said in December that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention contacted Dallas to participate in its National wastewater monitoring system. The program has been around since 2020, but Dallas joined last month.
Twice a week, staff at the Dallas sewage treatment plant take sewage samples and mail them to a lab, according to Huang.
“We are happy to add this as another source of data regarding COVID,” Huang said. “One of the benefits is that it doesn’t depend on people going to get tested, it doesn’t depend on people who have symptoms, it’s kind of a community assessment because it’s just depending on the sewage.”
The results can help officials track infection rates and monitor different variants.
“I think one of the things that it was useful for was early detection of some of the newer variants, and so I think it was omicron, (the city of) Houston was able to detect it very early,” said Huang said.
He said the data is listed on the CDC website .
The CDC said people infected with COVID-19 excrete the virus in their stool, even if they have no symptoms. Testing sewage can help scientists know what is to come in terms of infection numbers and anticipate future outbreaks.