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Innsbruck bolsters COVID-19 early warning system

By testing wastewater and sewage water samples, the city will be able to detect clusters of the disease and act accordingly

  • August 30, 2020 20:00
  • Author Anton Stoyanov
Medium 200814 abwasser monitoring covid 19 fg
Source: © IKM/F. Gaugg / Stadt Innsbruck

In order to protect the health and lives of citizens, local authorities in the Austrian city of Innsbruck have created a COVID-19 early warning system that tests wastewater and sewage water samples for traces of the disease. Should tests come out positive, officials know exactly which part of the city has an active infection and will then be able to contain it.

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The Innsbruck COVID-19 early warning system has been in place for a while now but since last week the monitoring stations have been operational in three additional locations – driving their total number up to 4 (an additional, final station is also currently in the works). The stations allow for the constant observation of viral loads of wastewater and sewage water and thus allow for an early response by local authorities.

Deputy Mayor of Innsbruck Ing. Mag. Johannes Anzengruber explains that “The aim is to contain the 'clusters' in the urban agglomeration even faster and in a more structured manner and to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 virus at an early stage. This means that personnel resources can be deployed in a more targeted manner, which can lead to measures to be taken to contain the virus more quickly.”

The samples are collected on a daily basis and are sent to the Institute for Forensic Medicine at the Medical University of Innsbruck which delivers the results on the very next day. The method that authorities employ has the significant advantage of making the virus detectable in the wastewater a few days earlier, even before positive test results from individuals are available.

In conclusion, Vice Mayor Anzengruber stated that "The examination of wastewater samples offers an opportunity to obtain a comprehensive overview of the spread of the coronavirus. If the values ​​are too high, you can react selectively in the city districts or narrow down the affected area even more closely using the sewer network.”



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