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Thursday, March 4, 2021

Covid-19 viral fragments found in Belconnen sewage

ACT Health is urging the community to get tested for COVID-19 if they have even the mildest of symptoms, with fragments of the virus being detected in ACT’s wastewater (sewage) for the first time.

The positive detection was found in a sewage sample collected on 27 January 2021 from the Belconnen wastewater testing location. The Belconnen testing site covers wastewater from Aranda, Belconnen, Bruce, Charnwood, Cook, Dunlop, Evatt, Florey, Flynn, Fraser, Giralang, Hall, Hawker, Higgins, Holt, Kaleen, Latham, Lawson, Macgregor, Macquarie, McKellar, Melba, Page, Scullin, Spence, Strathnairn and Weetangera.

All other locations in the ACT had negative sample results on 27 January.

Deputy Chief Health Officer Dr Vanessa Johnston, said that while this does not mean the ACT has a new case of COVID-19, ACT Health is treating this detection with caution and is investigating the matter.

“The detection of viral fragments of COVID-19 in Belconnen’s wastewater doesn’t automatically mean we have an active case here in the ACT,” Dr Johnson said.

“It may represent a person who has recovered from COVID-19 and is no longer infectious but is continuing to shed the virus. This shedding can happen for several weeks after the person is no longer infectious. This detection may be indicative of a person in this category, who has recently returned home or visited the ACT.

“For example, we know that ACT residents continue to return to Australia from overseas. These individuals undergo hotel quarantine in other states and territories before returning to the ACT. Some of these residents develop COVID-19 in hotel quarantine and then return to the ACT once they have recovered and are no longer infectious.

“However, it may also be a undetected active case, which is why the community should remain alert, but not alarmed,” she said.

“We urge anyone who lives in, works in, or has recently visited the Belconnen area, to get tested for COVID-19 if they are experiencing even the mildest of symptoms, and to self-isolate until they receive a negative result. This is particularly important for anyone who has recently travelled outside the ACT.

“If there is an active case we are unaware of, it is vital that we detect this quickly to keep the community safe.

“Even if you have very mild symptoms, like a scratchy throat or runny nose, you should get tested for COVID-19.

“If you do not have any symptoms, there is no need to get tested,” Dr Johnston said.

Common symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, sore throat, cough, shortness of breath, and loss of smell or taste, while less commons symptoms include runny or blocked nose, muscle pain, joint pain, diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting and loss of appetite.

ACT Health is continuing to investigate and further wastewater testing will be conducted next week as part of the ongoing Wastewater surveillance program in the ACT.

The ACT Wastewater Surveillance Program tests untreated sewage for fragments of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) at six locations across the ACT weekly. This program is conducted in collaboration with ICON Water, the NSW Sewage Surveillance Program, and the Australian National University.

There have been no new cases of COVID-19 recorded in the ACT in the past 24 hours, leaving the ACT’s total at 118. There are no active cases in the ACT. The number of negative tests recorded in the ACT is now 155,650 with 228 tests in the past 24 hours (as at 12.10pm on Sunday 31 January).

For further information on free testing clinics in the ACT, visit: www.covid19.act.gov.au/testing

For further information, including Frequently Asked Questions about wastewater testing, visit: www.covid19.act.gov.au/news-articles/wastewater

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