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US researchers find clues to Omicron surge in sewage data
New York, Jan 20 - Apart from crowded places and family gatherings, researchers in the US have stumbled upon an unlikely source of Omicron surge - sewage -- as Covid infections surge in the country.
According to a report in The New York Times, people who contract coronavirus shed the virus in their stool, and the virus levels in local wastewater provide a strong, independent signal of how much is circulating in a given community.
"The clues are emerging from an unlikely source: sewage. The sewage data reveal an Omicron wave that is cresting at different times in different places," the report said on Wednesday.
The report cited data from Biobot Analytics that tracks Covid virus in wastewater in 183 communities across 25 states.
It revealed that viral levels have already begun to decline in many big cities but are still rising in smaller communities.
"In the Boston area, for instance, Biobot's data suggests that the wastewater viral load has been falling since early January, consistent with other data suggesting that the virus may have peaked there," said the report.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is now funding sewage surveillance efforts in 43 states, cities and territories.
It plans to add wastewater data to its online "Covid Data Tracker" within the next few weeks.
"Wastewater surveillance is a really powerful tool, and we're seeing really a good example of that with Omicron," said Amy Kirby, the programme lead for the National Wastewater Surveillance System.
"It's not just an early warning sign, but it's also helpful to monitor the full trajectory of a surge," Kirby was quoted as saying in the report.
Amid the unabated Covid-19 resurgence fuelled by the highly-transmissible Omicron variant, the US has again logged over 1 million new cases after setting a global record of over 1.36 million fresh infections earlier this month, according to latest data from Johns Hopkins University.
The country recorded as high as over 5.4 million Covid-19 cases in the week from January 10 to 16, a record high weekly case count since the onset of the pandemic in the country, according to Johns Hopkins University data.
The US has witnessed a new Covid-19 surge since mid December due to the highly infectious Omicron variant.
The country is now averaging nearly 755,000 new cases and nearly 1,700 new deaths each day, up significantly week by week, according to latest data from the CDC.
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