Routine wastewater testing has returned a positive result for viral fragments of COVID-19 in sewage at a treatment plant in Ipswich.
The sample was taken from the plant at Carole Park on October 22 as part of a joint Queensland Health, University of Queensland and CSIRO pilot research program to test sewage for traces of the virus.
Sampling has been taking place at 18 locations across Queensland since mid-July, and while positive results have been reported at several areas across the state in recent weeks, Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young said the Ipswich result was of particular concern.
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“Positive results from a month ago were most likely caused by virus shedding from a case that was no longer infectious. Viral shedding can occur for several weeks after recovery from COVID-19,” Dr Young said.
“We are uncertain about the cause of the positive result… We have had several weeks worth of negative results at this wastewater testing location since the Brisbane Youth Detention Centre cluster.
“There is a very real possibility this wastewater result is a sign of one or more undetected positive COVID-19 cases in the Ipswich community, and we are treating this seriously.”
Dr Young said she was calling on the Ipswich community to get tested immediately if they have any COVID-19 symptoms, no matter how mild.
“The discovery of these fragments is a reminder that we should not be complacent and need to keep in place good hygiene practices, maintain social distancing and get tested when sick,” Dr Young said.
“If there is a case in the community, it is critical we detect it through our testing mechanisms as quickly as possible to contain any potential spread and protect the great progress Queensland has made in recent months.”
However, residents in the area are being reassured the local drinking water is safe to consume.
“I also want to reassure the community, local drinking water is thoroughly treated through processes that are designed to remove or kill microorganisms before they reach your taps – so there is no risk when drinking water, showering, watering the garden, swimming or other activities,” Dr Young said.
It comes as the state recorded two new cases of coronavirus today.
The recent cases are a 45-year-old man and a 49-year-old female, both overseas travellers who remain in hotel quarantine in Cairns.