On April 16, the novel coronavirus peaked in New Haven, Conn., at least as far as tests of individuals showed.
But Yale University scientists taking samples from the local sewage treatment plant got a head start on that information: they could see the peak almost immediately, on April 7.
Someone with the coronavirus can take up to five days to show symptoms. To show up in statistics, they then have to seek out testing, be tested and have the results come back.
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But long before all that has time to happen, the person has been contributing data to the sewers with every flush.
For University of Ottawa engineering professor Robert Delatolla, sewage offers us a way to find out about future outbreaks as quickly as possible.
He calls the New Haven study “potentially very important.”
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New Haven’s sewage (red) showed a spike in coronavirus about a week before it was shown in tests of people (black).
“It indicates that it could be a tool for us, or our health agencies to use,