Surveillance updates: Short-term wastewater contract, expanded traveler testing

Two quick updates about the CDC’s surveillance efforts for COVID-19 and other diseases:

  • The CDC has provided a short-term wastewater surveillance contract to Verily, the biotech company that’s affiliated with Google, so that data collection can continue at about 400 sewage testing sites while a longer-term contract is in dispute. This temporary measure will help keep up surveillance during the winter respiratory virus season, though Verily still has a lot of logistical work ahead to actually start testing at sites where another company, Biobot Analytics, was previously in charge. (Verily will need to contact the sites, send them equipment, set up sample collection procedures, etc.) The CDC’s National Wastewater Surveillance System is also working on an updated COVID-19 dashboard, according to POLITICO’s story about the short-term contract. For more context, see my coverage of the contract switch and POLITICO’s previous reporting.
  • The CDC is expanding its testing program for international travelers arriving at U.S. airports, in a three-month pilot program for the winter virus season. This program, called the Traveler-Based Genomic Surveillance program, has screened travelers for coronavirus variants over the last two years, primarily using PCR tests among travelers who volunteer for a nasal swab. This winter’s pilot program expands surveillance in two ways: adding about 30 testing targets (including flu, RSV, other common diseases, and markers of antimicrobial resistance), and adding wastewater testing at three airports. One airport, San Francisco’s international airport, was already providing samples from plane sewage. See my article in Science News for more details.

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