Coronavirus wastewater survey suggests infection rate in Tartu may rise

The main building at the University of Tartu (TÜ).
The main building at the University of Tartu (TÜ). Source: Andres Tennus/University of Tartu

Coronavirus concentration in waste water is currently at a moderate to high level, according to recent research, particularly in Tartu. This suggests that the actual coronavirus rate as reported in that city will rise in the near future.

Head of the weekly study, conducted by the University of Tartu, Professor Tanel Tenson said: "Our most recent results show that the infection rate in Tartu is very likely to keep rising," explained Tenson. 

The increase in the concentration of the virus in waste water – sewage in other words – has been gradual, without sudden peaks. On this week's map, the city of Tartu is the only place marked by the bright red spot indicating a very wide spread of the virus. This correlates with the large number of new infections detected in Tartu County.

Coronavirus wastewater survey map as of August 13, with four-stage levels of incidence (green to red). Source: University of Tartu

The university team collects its samples at the beginning of each week in towns with more than 10,000 inhabitants – which number 14 in Estonia – and smaller population centers too, though this week's survey only took its data from the largest towns, and reflects the situation of wastewater passing through a treatment plant over a 24-hour period, the university says.

The Health Board (Terviseamet) is kept up-to-date with the survey results and monitors them.

The studies took a break over the mid-summer, when coronavirus traces were declining, but the readings have started to rise again.

The University of Tartu cooperates with the Estonian Environmental Research Centre (EKUK) and water companies operating the sewage treatment plants, while the samples are analyzed at the laboratories of the University of Tartu Institute of Technology.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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