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Elevated Levels of COVID-19 Viral Shedding Detected in St. Mary’s County Wastewater

 

LEONARDTOWN, Md. – Local wastewater monitoring for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, has detected elevated levels of viral particles in the sewer systems serving several locations in St. Mary’s County.

“These viral particles are shed by individuals who have COVID-19 and can be detected in sewage,” said Dr. Meena Brewster, St. Mary’s County Health Officer. “Rising levels of viral particles in the wastewater from a particular wastewater treatment plant may indicate an increase in COVID-19 in the area that contributes wastewater to that plant. Sometimes the spike in wastewater can be seen before lab results indicate a spike in cases. Since COVID-19 may be asymptomatic in some people, these results should encourage even asymptomatic residents to evaluate their exposure risk and seek COVID-19 testing if they have risk for infection.”

Wastewater samples are being collected from several private, public and municipal wastewater treatment plants throughout the County as part of a collaborative initiative by the St. Mary’s County Health Department (SMCHD), St. Mary’s College of Maryland, and the St. Mary’s County Metropolitan Commission. Recent testing of the viral load (number of viral particles per liter of wastewater) has demonstrated an increase from prior amounts in several county locations.

Community members living in areas with rising wastewater viral levels should:

• Self-monitor for signs and symptoms of COVID-19
Get tested for COVID-19 within 48 hours of developing any symptoms
• Consider getting tested for COVID-19, even if without symptoms
• Continue to practice recommended prevention measures 

  • Wash your hands often.
  • Avoid close contact with people outside of your household or those who are sick.
  • Wear a face covering in public settings (indoor and outdoor) and when around people who don’t live in your household, especially when other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.

Results of ongoing monitoring related to this effort are now posted on the SMCHD website at: www.smchd.org/covid-19-wastewater. For more information about COVID-19, please visit www.smchd.org/coronavirus or call SMCHD at (301) 475-4330.

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