Podcast 784: Wastewater Surveillance for COVID - The Emergency Medical Minute

Podcast 784: Wastewater Surveillance for COVID

Contributor: Jared Scott, MD

Educational Pearls:

  • About 50% of those infected with SARS-CoV-2 will shed the virus in their feces  
  • Wastewater surveillance can be used to track COVID burden, which may be easier than collating test data from multiple hospitals across a region 
  • Viral shedding begins 5-7 days prior to symptom onset, so wastewater data can be used to anticipate outbreaks and inform policy and public health initiatives 
  • Some existing limitations to wastewater surveillance include:
  • Reporting by counties were water sources may be mixed
  • Septic tanks and other closed water systems will not be counted
  • Not all those infected will shed the virus


Weidhaas J, Aanderud ZT, Roper DK, et al. Correlation of SARS-CoV-2 RNA in wastewater with COVID-19 disease burden in sewersheds. Sci Total Environ. 2021;775:145790. doi:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2021.145790

Kirby AE, Walters MS, Jennings WC, et al. Using Wastewater Surveillance Data to Support the COVID-19 Response — United States, 2020–2021. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2021;70:1242–1244. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm7036a2

Covid-19 monitoring in wastewater. Colorado COVID-19 Updates. https://covid19.colorado.gov/covid-19-monitoring-in-wastewater. Accessed May 21, 2022.

Summarized by Kirsten Hughes, MS4 | Edited by John Spartz, MD, MPH & Erik Verzemnieks, MD


The Emergency Medical Minute is excited to announce that we are now offering AMA PRA Category 1 credits™ via online course modules. To access these and for more information, visit our website at https://emergencymedicalminute.org/cme-courses/ and create an account. 

Donate to EMM today!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


Stay up to date by
joining our mailing list!