Recent sewage samples in three Saskatchewan cities show a huge drop in the amount of COVID-19 present. And the samples didn’t pick up the subvariants that scientists couldn’t identify before.
Viral loads were down 85.3 percent from the previous week in Saskatoon, 90.2 percent in North Battleford and 65.7 percent in Prince Albert.
Toxicologist John Giesy, a team leader at the USask Global Institute for Water Security that does the measurements, called the numbers good news.
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“In addition to this large relative drop, the actual absolute values are getting back to exactly where we were when we started this last wave,” he said.
He added that this resulted in far fewer infected people across the three cities.
He told Global News that the lack of public health mandates linked to the highly infectious subvariant BA.2 Omicron caused the previous week’s readings to spike so much.
Also, the samples failed to detect the virus material, which the team previously failed to identify, which accounted for 17.6 percent in North Battleford in the most recent reporting period.
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This week’s results show that BA.2 again accounts for 100 percent of the virus detected.
Giesy said the team is still awaiting official results from the National Microbiology Lab in Winnipeg on what those mysterious subvariants were, but suspects most of the unidentified virus was BA.3.
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He said studies from South Africa and the UK show that BA.3 doesn’t appear to be much more transmissible than the (already highly infectious) BA.2 subvariant.
“We only had one sample that showed we might have one of the X recombinants, but we weren’t really sure because we didn’t see all the mutations,” he said, speaking of another emerging subvariant.
He told Global News the team will continue to monitor virus concentrations in wastewater to monitor whether levels remain low.
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