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OU testing wastewater to detect monkeypox

Posted at 9:05 AM, Aug 09, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-09 18:39:51-04

TULSA, Okla. — Eleven cases of monkeypox were reported in Oklahoma and four of them are in the northeastern part of the state.

The Oklahoma State Department of Health is working with OU to look at their wastewater surveillance but data is not yet available.

While we wait for the wastewater data, we wanted to look at how wastewater testing is used to detect the virus.

OU health officials say the same wastewater surveillance techniques used in the early detection of COVID-19 outbreaks are now being adapted for monitoring the spread of monkeypox here in Oklahoma.

OSDH says since there’s a small number of cases, they have to be careful about releasing very specific information. That’s because they don’t want to expose anyone's identity or where they are located.

Our sister station in Las Vegas has also been tracking the testing of monkeypox through wastewater providing an inside look at the process.

They were inside one of the labs at the University of Nevada Las Vegas where an associate professor and his team are using sewage water to determine the connection between infections and people.

"We've known over the last 2 years that wastewater surveillance can track viruses," said Dr. Edwin Oh, associate professor, neurogenetics and precision medicine lab. "All of us have to go to the bathroom and because monkeypox virus is a virus that can be secreted into urine into fecal matter its in skin lesions so when you shower or when you use the bathroom it's going to enter into our sewage.”

This means that health researchers can go into a manhole or a wastewater treatment plant to sample sewage water.

There are limits to what this kind of monitoring can accomplish. Wastewater monitoring doesn’t pinpoint who is infected, it reveals only the presence of a virus in a given area and it takes a specialist to analyze the samples.

Again, OU health officials tell 2 News they have started wastewater testing in Oklahoma.

We’ll bring you the most up to data once it becomes available and for more information on the virus click here.

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