PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – As tens of thousands of people descend upon Eugene for the World Athletic Championships, scientists from across the state will be monitoring the city’s wastewater closely to track the prevalence of COVID-19 and other viruses.
Researchers from the Oregon Health Authority, Lane County and Oregon State University will work with the University of Oregon to track the spread of diseases during the event.
The Oregon Health Authority said the event offers a perfect real-time laboratory for monitoring viruses in the sewage.
“An international sporting event that brings together people from different countries provides scientists, public health experts and state and local partners a perfect opportunity to evaluate this population monitoring system used widely in Oregon and across the United States,” Dr. Melissa Sutton, medical director of respiratory viral pathogens at the Oregon Health Authority, said.
During the event, the agencies and universities will share daily results from their sewage monitoring in Eugene. They’ll be testing for SARS-CoV-1 (the virus that causes COVID-19), influenza, hepatitis A, hepatitis E, measles and MERS-CoV.
Sutton said scientists will be able to see how accurate their system is in detecting SARS-CoV-2 variants and other viruses that might arrive with travelers.
The testing results will be available within 48 hours after a wastewater sample is collected on a new Oregon Health Authority webpage. The webpage will be published the afternoon of Friday, July 15.
The scientists have already performed pre-event sampling in Eugene and detected hepatitis A.
“Cases of hepatitis A occur sporadically in Lane County; therefore, finding hepatitis A virus in a sewage sample that was collected well before the World Championships even started is not a surprise,” Dr. Patrick Luedtke, Lane County senior public health officer, said.
He reminds the public that hepatitis A vaccines are available and are highly effective.
Oregon’s wastewater surveillance program currently operates in more than 40 communities.
State officials expect about 30,000 people will visit Eugene for the World Athletic Championships track and field event, which takes place July 15-24.