VIRAL fragments of COVID-19 have been detected in a recent sample from the Burwood Beach sewage treatment plant.
The sample was taken as part of a NSW Health research program to test sewage for traces of COVID-19 to support the public health response to the pandemic.
The positive sewage result means that someone who has been infected is shedding the virus.
Infected people's stools may contain viral fragments, and shedding can extend for several weeks beyond the person's infectious period.
Dr David Durrheim, Hunter New England Health's Public Health Controller for the COVID-19 response, said the positive result was not unexpected and supports the need for vigilance and testing.
"With recent cases of COVID-19 identified in this wastewater catchment, which includes the Newcastle City area and surrounding suburbs of Dudley, Charlestown, Jesmond, Mayfield and Carrington, it's really important that anyone with symptoms in these communities gets tested," said Dr Durrheim.
"Anyone feeling unwell - even with the mildest of symptoms such as a runny nose or scratchy throat - must seek testing and self-isolate until they get their result. Stay at home, and do not go to work, the shops, or catch public transport until you are cleared of COVID-19.
"We understand detections like this can make people nervous about drinking water and beach swimming. Drinking water is treated before being delivered to your tap and remains safe to drink.
"The virus is killed by usual sewage treatment processes before it is discharged to the environment, including ultraviolet (UV) disinfection that is used at the Burwood Beach treatment plant. The wastewater treatment process is designed to inactivate (kill) or remove even the toughest microorganisms, including viruses, bacteria and protozoa," he said.
Further testing will be undertaken as the NSW Health research program continues.
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