Covid-19 Sewerage Surveillance
Proposed Complementary Testing
Testing for the COVID-19 causing virus in wastewater will address one of the major challenges associated with the pandemic – being able to predict where and when an outbreak is likely to occur. This early warning system is a valuable tool in the fight against this disease. Furthermore, it will result in accurate historical data of the prevalence of the disease within a wastewater treatment catchment area, which can be analysed to predict future outbreaks.
The financial costs of implementing testing are insignificant compared to the economic losses due to the shutting down of individual businesses, or whole areas. This system is useful for monitoring whole communities as well as individual businesses or housing complexes. It is relevant for governmental authorities who need to monitor whole communities, as well as the private sector who need to monitor smaller “areas” such as residential complexes or their businesses.
This way of mass ‘testing’ in advance is much more effective than individual testing since a few samples can account for an entire community, residential complex, business park or even an individual business, instead of one test for each person.
Benefits of epidemiological surveillance
Because surveillance and response are so closely intertwined, the benefits of the surveillance system are dependent on response. Surveillance is a response management tool for epidemic-prone infectious diseases such as COVID-19.
Surveillance-Response system includes health benefits from infections, economic, social, and psychological benefits which result from averting or controlling outbreaks at an early stage.
Our services have bearing on the duties of the Department of Environmental Affairs, Department of Water and Sanitation, Department of Health and Department of Local Government. The various water boards are also role players. Our system thus presents a platform for shared resources and activities, which is line with the provision of the Constitution. This is cost saving and promotes co-operative governance.
Epidemics involve higher than usual incidence of disease in that larger numbers of people become ill at the same time, in geographic clusters. This situation overwhelms the healthcare facility and disrupts economic and social activities. Our services are delivered at a small-scale level i.e., small catchments.
Our Target Clients
Our target clients include Government (Metropolitan, Local Municipalities, Wards juristic areas), ESKOM, Waterboards, media houses, stadia, malls, factories, schools, higher institutions, clinics, holiday resorts, prisons, etc.
Interventions aim to eliminate or reduce rate of infection, transmission, exposure, and personal risk, and to diagnose and manage clinical cases.
Such interventions, especially during a pandemic, disrupts routine health services, thus presenting a burden to the Department of Health, in terms of increased workloads and increased operational and infrastructural costs. In addition to this, there would be additional tasks and reporting which generally would take time away from other duties.
Who benefits in kinds?
Costs could be to the individuals, the health system, and Community. Individuals benefit from the avoidance of outbreaks brought about by effective surveillance and response in terms of death averted, time not spent caring for the sick by family members, lock down time avoided. The health care system benefits by reduced treatment burden and less disruption of services. The community benefits from uninterrupted economic and social activities.
Our services, apart from being proactive (pre-outbreak), addresses both financial and opportunity costs. Catchment sampling is more cost-effective compared with the current random individual testing. There is ample time to prepare to contain outbreaks and issue early warning of potential hot spots. Epidemiological surveillance approach releases more funds for response management. The routine health services are thus less seriously disrupted.