VANCOUVER - A new online tool allows Metro Vancouver residents to track the viral load of COVID-19 found in untreated wastewater at each of the region’s five wastewater treatment plants.

Metro Vancouver, the regional district that delivers water, waste treatment and other services to the area's local governments, says the tool is now active on its website.

A statement from Metro Vancouver says it worked with the public health laboratory of the BC Centre for Disease Control and the University of British Columbia to sample and test wastewater to track the presence and trends of the COVID-19 virus.

Residents can click on a specific wastewater treatment plant on a map to see a snapshot of the COVID-19 virus trend for that area.

Metro Vancouver says tracking the viral load can help health authorities evaluate how well COVID-19 containment measures are working.

But they say it can't pinpoint the number of people who are infected or contagious.

The chart for each wastewater treatment plant shows the amount of COVID-19 virus present per litre of wastewater before the liquid is treated.

Dr. Natalie Prystajecky, program head of the public health lab at the BC Centre for Disease Control, says studying the virus in wastewater means researchers can "look at an entire population, rather than an individual person.”

“Studies have demonstrated that about 50 per cent of COVID-19 cases have the virus in their feces,” she says.

The virus that causes COVID-19 is non-infectious in feces and wastewater, the statement says.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 1, 2021.

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