Wastewater is once again being used to track an infectious virus spreading across the community. This time — the monkeypox virus.
“When we’re doing with wastewater testing, what that can help give us information about is the concentration of virus in the wastewater, so it’s another tool of what’s called surveillance meaning it helps us to know how much of monkeypox is out there,” said Dr. Jennifer Chevinsky, MD MPH, Deputy Public Health Officer of Riverside University Health System.
The amount of virus present in the wastewater shows if the virus is in a community, even before a monkeypox test is administered.
“We’re seeing it about a week or so in advance,” said Beverli Marshall, General Manager of Valley Sanitary District. “People generally don’t get tested until they have symptoms or if they’ve been exposed, but by then it’s already in their system.”
Presence in the wastewater means presence in the community.
“We can identify that there is a presence in Indio, and maybe we wouldn’t be on the county public health radar yet unless somebody is saying ‘I tested positive and I live in Indio’. But if we’re seeing it in the wastewater, somebody has it,” said Marshall.
Wastewater monitoring can also show whether cases are increasing or decreasing.
“And we can also show that, because we do have tourism, if we had been able to do this during the festivals, we could show potentially that if it’s peaking during those festivals, then it’s probably not local, it’s probably tourism,” said Marshall.
Beginning this week, Valley Sanitary District will monitor for the monkeypox virus in Indio and a small portion of Coachella and La Quinta.
While the east valley is being proactive, the majority of cases are being reported in the west valley in Palm Springs.
“Of the 128 cases, roughly half are in the Palm Springs area,” said Dr. Chevinsky.
The city of Palm Springs is currently testing wastewater for the monkeypox virus. Testing will begin in Indio and parts of Coachella and La Quinta beginning this week, and results will be available by early next week.