Getting COVID-19 samples from stool samples that have been flushed into public wastewater systems doesn’t sound like it would be a terrific job, but somebody has to do it.

At least, apparently, someone has to.

It may be one of those things that’s known as falling into the “More Information Than I Needed” category, however, if you’re the type of person who’s interested in the presence of COVID-19 that’s traveled via human poop into wastewater– well, the state has you covered. 

On Monday, May 24, state health officials announced that they’ll provide information regarding these findings on the county’s “COVID-19 Dashboard.”  That’s the updated-daily website that keeps track of, and makes public, all sorts of COVID-19 data pertaining to North Carolina.

In order better understand COVID-19 and its spread, as well as understand the degree of prevalence in parts of the state, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) is testing samples of water from select wastewater treatment plants across North Carolina and looking for SARS-CoV-2 – the virus that causes coronavirus infections.

“People with COVID-19 shed viral particles in their stool,” a description of the program notes.  “These viral particles are pieces of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19 when still intact. In wastewater, the particles are no longer infectious but can still be measured. Testing wastewater for these viral particles allows us to track COVID-19 trends among people contributing to the wastewater.  Data from these sites serve as a supplemental metric to understand the impacts of COVID-19 at the community level.”

The project is a joint effort between the NCDHHS, the University of North Carolina system researchers, wastewater utilities and public health departments in the state.