FULTON COUNTY, Ga. — Fulton County is testing wastewater to better understand how quickly COVID and monkeypox cases are increasing in the community.
Local leaders joined the Public Works Department on Tuesday at the Camp Creek Water Reclamation Facility.
The department is working with Emory University to test wastewater at the four plants in the county for traces of the COVID-19 and monkeypox viruses.
The department said it started testing samples for COVID-19 about a month ago and then added testing for monkeypox in the last two weeks as cases in the state began to rise.
Officials said through regular testing of the wastewater, they can measure the amount of the viruses in it and see whether the levels are increasing or decreasing within that area.
The daily sample is sent to a private lab. The department said there is a correlation between the number of viruses per liter and the number of clinical cases in the community.
The laboratory manager for the Fulton County Camp Creek facility said since everyone infected sheds the virus, a single sample can represent up to millions of people.
The process warns officials and policymakers earlier if cases are on the rise. This is especially helpful with COVID-19. Officials said since more people are using at-home COVID-19 tests and fewer people are reporting results to the county and state, the current COVID-19 case numbers aren’t accurate.
“So this capability, working across all of government, gives us the ability to see that and see it real time as opposed to seeing it end up in hospitalizations,” said Dick Anderson, Fulton County Manager.
When Fulton County got the results, it said it would update the county’s dashboard.
Officials said the cost of the testing is covered by a grant Emory University received.
At the last update, Georgia had more than 2.1 million cases of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic and 268 cases of monkeypox. 11Alive asked for the current number of cases in Fulton County, but we had not received those at the time of publication.