SALT LAKE CITY -- As colleges grapple with the coronavirus, institutions across the country are turning campus sewage into a public health tool.
At least two schools in Utah and Arizona have quarantined hundreds of students after tests showed the presence of genetic material from the virus in wastewater.
Experts say it can be an inexpensive way to monitor people who may not even know they are sick yet.
But it's still imprecise measure for now, and some at Utah State University were disconcerted they didn't know about the monitoring before their quarantine.
Still, as outbreaks batter colleges, officials say wastewater monitoring holds serious promise as an early detection system.
Most patients with COVID-19 have mild to moderate symptoms. However, in a small proportion of patients, COVID-19 can lead to more severe illness, including death, particularly among those who are older or those who have chronic medical conditions.
COVID-19 spreads primarily through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
Symptoms include fever, cough, and difficulty breathing. Symptoms appear within 14 days of being exposed to an infectious person.
Virginia health officials urged the following precautions:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer only if soap and water are not available.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Avoid contact with sick people.
- Avoid non-essential travel.