Wastewater Surveillance— the Perfect Early Warning System for Future Pandemics?

Nicole Hilbig
2 min readAug 4, 2022

Corona waves can be detected up to 10 days earlier

Photo by Felipe Caparrós on Adobe Stock.

SARS CoV2 first sits in the throat, nose and then in the lungs. But small, non-infectious residual components are also found in the intestine.

This is how they get into the wastewater and can be detected using a special PCR test in the local sewage treatment plant.

So early that the infected people often do not even know that they have been infected.

This process is called “wastewater surveillance” and detects pandemic waves even before they are reflected in official reporting figures: up to 10 days earlier.

As a result, those infected who would not even be recognized without symptoms and tests are also included in the statistics.

This wastewater analysis can also be used to target specific districts of the pandemic outbreak and thus warn them at an early stage and consciously isolate them.

Apart from the USA, Canada, India and some European countries, this measure is not yet implemented across the board, but in individual urban pilot projects.

Though this could be the perfect early warning system for future pandemics and variants, which means that we do not have to watch helplessly when sudden outbreaks occur, but can intervene directly and early on to avert worse things.



Nicole Hilbig

I love learning and writing about the changes in our digital era. My topics are future, work, productivity, writing, education & personal stories.