Predicting the Wave of COVID-19 in Communities Wastewater as an Important Monitoring Tool
TerraGreen|August 2020
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Predicting the Wave of COVID-19 in Communities Wastewater as an Important Monitoring Tool
The coronavirus is present in the gastrointestinal tract of several patients with COVID-19 and finds its way in the faeces and subsequently in sewage and wastewater. Research indicates that monitoring wastewater is a better strategy for detecting the viral infections in any population. Dr Paromita Chakraborty and Akanksha Manish say that the ongoing pandemic situation can be utilized to test whether wastewater based epidemiology (WBE) can act as an effective technique to observe and manage public health globally. WBE can be an important tool as most infections are thought to be asymptomatic or undiagnosed infections. WBE can provide critical knowledge on identification of hotspots and understanding the dynamics of the infection.
Dr Paromita Chakraborty and Akanksha Manish

Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) has triggered the current global pandemic. Infection induced by this novel virus made of 4 proteins and a strand of ribonucleic acid (RNA) leads to coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), thereby, impacting the global ongoing efforts towards achieving many of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Breaking human transmissibility of this new virus comes down to the practice of good hand hygiene. Frequent disinfection is a must for arresting the contagion from spreading. The countries with least resilient water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) infrastructure were observed to be the worst affected. The joint monitoring report of WHO-UNICEF (JMP 2019 Update) has revealed stark realities that globally around 2.2 billion people lack safe drinking water, 4.2 billion people live without access to adequate sanitation, and 3 billion people lack basic handwashing facilities at home. Major percentage of the 3 billion stems from South Asian and Sub-Saharan African countries which houses 85 per cent of the world’s poor population with fragile health systems along with the absence of trained personnel. Worse still, majority of this population consists of elderly, disabled, displaced and indigenous people making them the most vulnerable lot (WSSCC, 2020). As per the National Family Health Survey (NFHS), in India the population without handwashing facilities has been 39.8 per cent (NFHS-4, 2015–16).

Viable viral RNA can find its way to wastewater stream via bodily excreta, viz., saliva, feces, and sputum. Major transmission route of contamination of this virus is inhalation via person-to-person and aerosol/droplet transmission, fomite and hand contamination. Studies surrounding the virus have indicated that an in-depth knowledge about wastewater acting as potential point sources is needed since sewers mirror the health profile of the surrounding communities. However, there lies a paucity of data on the presence of human coronaviruses in surface or groundwater sources. It could, however, remain infectious in water contaminated with faeces for days to weeks. Yet, there is a paucity of data on faecal−oral transmission of the COVID-19 virus (WHO, 2020).

A number of measures can be taken to improve water safety, starting with protecting the water source, treating water at the point of distribution, collection, or consumption; and ensuring that treated water is safely stored at home in regularly cleaned and covered containers. In the absence of centralized water treatment, several household techniques, viz., boiling, appropriately dosed chlorine, ultrafiltration, nanomembrane filters, solar and ultraviolet (UV) radiation can be used as effective removal measures for the virus. Ensuring the viability of critical supply chains of soap, disinfectant, point-of-use water treatment supplies, etc., as well as lifting of import/export restrictions on critical equipment needed by utilities or households, would strengthen measures towards fighting COVID-19.

The COVID-19 Virus

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August 2020