Sewage testing detects COVID fragments

NSW Health is calling on people in the Hawkesbury and South Western Sydney to get tested if they have COVID-19 symptoms after the state’s sewage surveillance program detected traces of the virus at two treatment plants.

A/Executive Director of Health Protection NSW, Dr Richard Broome, said NSW Health had been working with Sydney Water to analyse wastewater samples since July to detect any low levels of virus in the community.

“Fragments of the SARS CoV-2 virus have been found at sewage treatment plants at North Richmond in the Hawkesbury, and West Camden in South Western Sydney,” Dr Broome said.

“We’re calling on people in these catchments to come forward for testing with even the mildest of symptoms such as a runny nose or scratchy throat.”

In South Western Sydney, NSW Health is looking closely at the suburbs of Belimba Park, Bickley Vale, Bow Bowing, Brownlow Hill, Camden, Camden Park, Camden South, Carrington Park, Catherine Field, Cawdor, Cobbitty, Currans Hill, Elderslie, Ellis Lane, Gledswood Hills, Glenmore, Grasmere, Gregory Hills, Harrington Park, Kirkham, Mount Annan, Mount Hunter, Minto, Minto DC, Minto Heights, Narellan, Narellan DC, Narellan Vale, Nattai, Orangeville, Oran Park, Raby, Rossmore, Spring Farm, St Andrews, Smeaton Grange, The Oaks and Varroville.

Areas of interest in the Hawkesbury include Agnes Banks, Bowen Mountain, Grose Vale, Grose Wold, Hobartville, Londonderry, North Richmond, Richmond, Richmond Lowlands, Tennyson, The Slopes and Yarramundi.

Dr Broome said finding traces of the virus in sewage samples could mean there were active cases nearby.

“It can also mean there are recently recovered cases, as people who have previously been infected can continue to ‘shed’ virus fragments into the sewage system for up to four weeks after they have recovered,” he said.

“There is no evidence that COVID-19 can be transmitted through wastewater, with studies showing the virus is deactivated by the treatment process.”

Dr Broome said the most recent cases in the West Camden catchment were reported in September, but no one living in the North Richmond catchment had recently tested positive for COVID-19.

“We have now gone 11 days without detecting a locally transmitted case of COVID-19 in NSW, but this is not the time to become complacent.

“It’s vital that we all continue to maintain social distancing and keep up good hand hygiene, and that anyone who is feeling unwell isolates and gets tested without delay.”

The closest testing clinics to West Camden are:

  • Camden Hospital, 61 Menangle Rd Camden, 8.00am-6.00pm, seven days a week
  • 14 Queen Street Narellan, 8.50am-5.00pm, Monday to Friday.

The closest clinics to North Richmond are:

  • Regatta Centre Drive-through, Sydney International Regatta Centre (enter via Gate B, Old Castlereagh Road, Castlereagh), 9.00am-12:30pm and 1.00-4.00pm, seven days a week
  • Penrith Drive-through Clinic, Club Paceway (enter via Ransley St, off Mulgoa Road), 9.00am-4.00pm, seven days a week.

NSW Health will establish extra clinics and extend opening hours if required in coming days to make it easy for people to get tested.

A full list of COVID-19 testing clinics is available or people can visit their GP.

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