People who are infected with certain illnesses shed particles of the germ that made them sick in their solid waste and urine. These particles pass into the wastewater system when people use the bathroom, where they can be detected and measured through a process called “wastewater monitoring.”
Each week, teams from Houston Wastewater Epidemiology take wastewater samples from wastewater treatment plants, lift stations, and manholes across the city of Houston. The samples are delivered to two independent labs for analysis. The labs determine whether certain illness-causing germs are present in the wastewater. This information can serve as an early warning sign that illnesses are circulating or may soon start circulating in a community, giving the Houston Health Department an opportunity to encourage people to take actions to keep themselves and their loved ones safe and healthy.
The most up-to-date information about Houston’s wastewater can be accessed online via the City of Houston Wastewater Monitoring Dashboard, which uses a color-coded, interactive map of Houston to show weekly levels of SARS-CoV-2 viral loads throughout the city and information about SARS-CoV-2, the flu, and RSV trends at certain HISD schools.