Coronavirus level in wastewater remains high but shows signs of decline

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The University of Tartu. Source: Vladislava Snurnikova/ERR

The concentration of coronavirus in wastewater samples taken from larger cities in Estonia has started to decline, the latest study from the University of Tartu shows. However, the virus is widely spread all over Estonia.

Principal investigator, Professor of Technology of Antimicrobial Compounds of the University of Tartu Tanel Tenson, said the virus concentration in wastewater has risen to such a high level that the readings will probably remain high for some time even if the currently noticeable slight decline continues.

"The concentration of coronavirus started to grow rapidly in mid-November last year. This was followed by a surge in the number of infections. If we compare the current infection figures and wastewater analysis results with those of November, we still have a long way to go to get back to the same level. The number of the infected continues to be high throughout Estonia and it is, therefore, necessary to be careful everywhere to avoid infection," Tenson explained.

The results of the wastewater monitoring study on April 9. Source: Tartu Ülikool

Wastewater samples are collected at the beginning of every week in all county centres, cities with more than 10,000 inhabitants and, if necessary, in smaller settlements.

Samples taken from larger cities reflect the situation of wastewater passing through the treatment plant over 24 hours, giving an overview of the infection level in the city. In smaller places, spot samples are taken, showing the virus level in wastewater at the moment of sampling. Spot samples are more easily affected by various factors and should therefore be used over several weeks to estimate the trend, rather than get a definitive picture of the current situation.

The study helps the Health Board monitor changes in the outbreak dynamics and discover hidden outbreaks. It gives early information for estimating the spread of the virus before clinical cases are detected.

For more information and the interactive map with the previous results of the study, see the home page of the study "Detecting coronavirus in waste water".

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Editor: Helen Wright

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