Coronavirus concentration in wastewater has increased across Estonia

Wastewater treatment plant in Tallinn.
Wastewater treatment plant in Tallinn. Source: Tallinna Vesi

The level of coronavirus in wastewater has increased this week (May 3-7), the University of Tartu's latest study shows.

Samples with a concentration of the virus have been collected all over Estonia, which is why precautions to prevent the spread of the virus must be taken very seriously everywhere.

Lead researcher, Professor of Technology of Antimicrobial Compounds of the University of Tartu Tanel Tenson, said it is alarming that the slow decrease in the virus concentration in April has turned to rise again.

"The increase is confirmed by the index illustrating of the average situation in Estonia, the samples collected from larger settlements, describing the average daily situation, as well as the point samples collected all over Estonia," Tenson explained.

There has also been some decline in western Estonia. At the same time, indicators of Harju County as well as southern and central Estonia have increased. Coronavirus levels in samples from Ida-Viru County have doubled compared to last week.

Tenson said the current virus concentration in wastewater is again comparable to that of the end of March. "Unfortunately, this may also be reflected in the rise in the number of the infected in the coming weeks," said Tenson.

The results of this week's (May 3-7) wastewater monitoring study. Source: University of Tartu.

How and where are the samples collected?

Wastewater samples are collected at the beginning of every week in all county centers, 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 a reliable 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 is a tool helping 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. The Health Board is regularly informed of the results. 


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Editor: Helen Wright

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