WSLH COVID Response – Population Health Surveillance

On June 17th, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) announced two COVID-19 virus (SARS-CoV-2) population-based surveillance programs – both featuring laboratory analysis by the Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene.


Antibody Surveillance

The WSLH Communicable Disease Division will be performing antibody testing for the Past Antibody COVID-19 Community Survey (PACCS).

This study is being led by the Survey of the Health of Wisconsin (SHOW) in the UW School of Medicine and Public Health and “…will determine the prevalence of COVID-19 antibodies throughout the state. Antibodies indicate if a person has been infected with COVID-19 in the past, even if they did not experience symptoms. Antibody testing helps in understanding how many people were infected with COVID-19; it does not provide information regarding the current amount of positive cases and is not an alternative to diagnostic testing. Study participants will receive antibody testing quarterly over the course of the next year.”


Wastewater Surveillance

Kayley Janssen pipettes sewage samples before beginning the filtration process.

DHS also announced a statewide program for surveillance of SARS-CoV-2 in wastewater. Looking for COVID-19 virus in wastewater is being heralded as a potential way to identify emerging outbreaks in communities.

The surveillance study will provide for trend analysis and potential early detection of SARS-CoV-2 in communities across the state by monitoring viral RNA in influent streams and sludge at wastewater treatment facilities (WWTF). High frequency sampling will focus on the two largest WWTFs in each of the 21 most populace counties. Lower frequency sampling will take place at 80 additional WWTFs located in more rural WI.

The project will run for a period of one year, beginning June 1, 2020. The project is being led at the WSLH by a team of Environmental Health Division researchers – Dagmara Antkiewicz, Kayley Janssen, Martin Shafer and Jocelyn Hemming. They are collaborating with a researcher at UW-Milwaukee as well as DHS and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

Here’s a selection of news stories about the announcement –

Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

WI Public Radio

Wisconsin State Journal