COVID-19 has increased in Fredericton over the holidays, new sewage data shows
Fredericton had a surge of COVID-19 just after the bank holidays, newly released sewage data shows.
The capital was added to the Public Health Agency of Canada’s COVID-19 wastewater monitoring dashboard on Tuesday night, making it the second New Brunswick location on the national website, launched nine months ago, alongside Moncton.
Data going back to December 22 shows that Fredericton’s seven-day moving average viral load, expressed as the number of viral gene copies found in one milliliter of raw sewage, started at 17 copies/mL.
By January 2, it rose to 165 copies/ml.
Some jurisdictions, such as Lulu Island in Vancouver, have seen readings in excess of 1,000 copies/mL during the peak of the pandemic.
“Cross-site comparisons can be difficult … but a similar increase was seen in parts of Halifax, Charlottetown and Montreal over the same period, in addition to other areas across Canada,” Anna Maddison, a spokeswoman for the Public Health Agency of Canada, said in an E -Mail statement.
“Nevertheless, some locations were also relatively ‘quiet’ after the holiday season.”
In Moncton, where sampling began in June, COVID levels hit a record high ahead of the holiday — on December 1 — when the seven-day moving average viral load was 132 copies/mL, the dashboard shows.
The viral load fell to 39 copies/mL by January 5 and was 12 on January 19, the latest figures available.
Fredericton’s levels also dropped to 29 copies/mL on January 19.
It takes five weeks of data to provide “meaningful trend results,” Maddison said.
Can give early warning
The Ministry of Health has described wastewater monitoring as a “crucial tool for health authorities”.
People who are infected shed the virus in their stools in the form of a genetic material called ribonucleic acid, or RNA, which can be found in raw sewage, usually five to seven days before they develop symptoms.
Effluent results can serve as an early warning of an increase in COVID-19 in a community and provide information on the circulating variants.
People can also use wastewater trend data to make decisions about personal protection measures when going into their community.
“In contrast to clinic and point-of-care [rapid] testing, wastewater monitoring provides the ability to monitor COVID-19 activity regardless of clinical test availability, test suitability, or population-level testing and reporting compliance,” said department spokesman Adam Bowie.
those of the government COVIDWatch report for the week ended Jan. 7, when the Fredericton spike occurred, the Fredericton health region, zone 3, showed the third-highest number of confirmed COVID cases in the province.
Of the 521 COVID cases confirmed by a PCR (polymerase chain reaction) laboratory test this week, the Saint John health region, zone 2, had 158 (30 percent), the Moncton health region, zone 1, 131 (25 per percent), and the Fredericton health region had 99 (19 percent).
The Saint John and Bathurst sites are not yet ready
Last month Bowie told CBC the province plans to set up two more COVID-19 sewage monitoring sites – in Saint John and Bathurst.
Those pages aren’t ready yet, he said in a recent email. “At least one site was waiting for the necessary equipment to arrive.”
Both locations are set to be added “in the near future,” Bowie said.
Funding the PEI lab could mean faster results
New Brunswick tests its own wastewater samples at the Public Health Laboratory, located at the Dr. Georges-L.-Dumont University Hospital Center is located. But each sample is also sent to the national microbiology laboratory in Winnipeg for additional testing and validation, Bowie said.
If the recently announced $1.5 million federal funding for a PEI lab could “support additional testing capacity here in our region or help Atlantic Canada governments expand the number of testing sites, New Brunswick would be open to it.” to explore those opportunities,” he said.
Last month, Federal Health Secretary Jean-Yves Duclos visited the Atlantic Veterinary College at the University of Prince Edward Island, which is receiving funding from the Public Health Agency of Canada to “improve COVID-19 sewage testing capacity for the Atlantic provinces.”
“Wastewater surveillance is the future of public health surveillance for infectious diseases in Canada,” Duclos said in a statement at the time.
The project, he said, will “increase the range and speed of sewage test results for Canadians in the Atlantic, resulting in a rapid and cost-effective approach to early detection of outbreaks and surges.”
This will allow COVID-19 testing in the region to be completed quickly without having to ship the samples to the national laboratory in Winnipeg, the spokesman for the Public Health Agency of Canada said.
It will also help develop local capacity and knowledge related to wastewater testing that could be used for other projects in the future, Maddison said.
“Laboratory testing services through the PEI lab will be extended to all Atlantic provinces at no cost to submitters,” she said, noting that participation is always at the discretion of provinces and territories, as well as municipalities.
No advice from Fredericton
CBC asked the City of Fredericton if they could provide advice for the establishment of Saint John and Bathurst based on the lessons learned, but Water Resources Recovery Manager Dan Harvey did not respond directly.
“The city’s sole role in the program was to collect the samples based on protocols and sampling equipment provided by [the Department of Environment and Local Government]’ he said in an emailed statement.
The department reached out to the city last year to see if it would be interested in providing wastewater samples for the national COVID-19 surveillance program, Harvey said.
Fredericton began shipping its samples on December 22 and was sending out two samples a week, he said.
Harvey did not comment on the results.