The CDC Launches Wastewater Surveillance to Collect Data on the Spread of Waterborne Diseases


Humans are constantly evolving and adapting to our environments, and the Coronavirus Pandemic of 2020 forced the world into an accelerated adaptation. The coronavirus is changing with new mutations and precautions announced periodically by the CDC and WHO. With the unprecedented spread of the virus and the changes, it has become clear that monitoring the virus is needed to understand how it functions and spreads. In response to 2020, the CDC, in collaboration with the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and other federal agencies, launched a public health tool to capture data on waterborne diseases and outbreaks. The National Wastewater Surveillance System (NWSS) aims to collect data for public health officials to learn more about how the coronavirus spreads within communities.


Additional monitoring tools and databases are in development by the CDC. The CDC is working on a national database system with wastewater testing results as a tool for state, tribal, local, territorial, and public health departments. The results will be gathered and summarized for public health action.


At this time, there is no information relating to anyone becoming sick with COVID-19 from direct exposure to treated or untreated wastewater. SARS-CoV-2 can be shed in the fecal matter of infected individuals, including those who are asymptomatic. Wastewater can be tested for RNA from the virus that caused the pandemic. The measurement of SARS-CoV-2 in untreated sewage can inform communities on the overall threat of COVID-19 infection in the areas contributing to the specific WWTP (the sewershed).


As we start to adapt to the post-pandemic world, officials are working hard to prevent future outbreaks with increased monitoring and surveillance of potential risks. The NWSS has been successful in monitoring other diseases, like polio, in wastewater. Monitoring will continue to develop and evolve, making it important to note that the collected data cannot predict the number of infected individuals, homes, or locations in a community.


The CDC has additional resources and information for communities that would like to participate in the NWSS. Click Here to Read More from the CDC.