NORMAN, Okla. (KFOR) – The University of Oklahoma and multiple health agencies will work together to monitor wastewater in Oklahoma.

The collaboration between OU Health Sciences Center researchers and the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH), Oklahoma City-County Health Department (OCCHD) and the Tulsa Health Department (THD) involves monitoring several pathogens through wastewater surveillance.

“With the onset of COVID-19 we saw how wastewater surveillance was able to help predict potential surges or outbreaks of the virus in communities,” said Jolianne Stone, the State Epidemiologist. “We hope in the future this tool will be able to aide in the surveillance and monitoring of other pathogens.”

Researchers will monitor the following pathogens:

  • Influenza
  • SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19)
  • Salmonella
  • Campylobacter
  • Norovirus
  • West Nile Virus
  • A type of E. coli called Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC)
  • Monkeypox

The monitoring will be anonymous; samples cannot be tracked back to a specific individual, according to an OSDH news release.

Data sets are not yet robust since the program is new in many areas, but are continuously being collected. The gathered information will help researchers anticipate possible outbreaks and prepare accordingly, OSDH officials said.

“Wastewater surveillance is another public health tool to help provide near real-time awareness of pathogens in our community,” said THD Executive Director Dr. Bruce Dart. “As more data is collected over time, it helps to paint a more complete picture which can inform operational decisions at the local level.”

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