Drone photo of Hervey Bay's Pulgul Creek Sewage Treatment Plant.
Drone photo of Hervey Bay's Pulgul Creek Sewage Treatment Plant.

UPDATE: Follow-up sewage tests find no sign of COVID-19

UPDATE: 3.30pm

FOLLOW-UP testing has returned  a negative result after an earlier test found low-level viral fragments of COVID-19 in sewage at the wastewater treatment plant at Pulgul in Hervey Bay.

Queensland Chief Health Officer Dr Jeanette Young said the most likely cause of the viral fragments detected in the earlier test was virus shedding from a case that was no longer infectious.

"A negative result today doesn't indicate a false positive in the previous test, nor does either result confirm the presence or absence of an unidentified confirmed case in the community," Dr Young said.

"What it does do is reinforce the importance of getting tested if members of the community experience any COVID-19 symptoms, no matter how mild, including fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose, fatigue or loss of sense or smell."

High rates of testing are crucial to ensuring positive cases can be identified and isolated as quickly as possible, before they have the chance to unknowingly infect others around them.

The earlier positive result was found in a sample that was taken as part of a joint Queensland Health, University of Queensland and CSIRO pilot research program to test sewage for traces of COVID-19. Sampling has been taking place at several locations across Queensland since mid-July.

Dr Young said there was minimal risk to people as the viral fragments themselves are not infectious and did not confirm that there were existing cases within the community.

"While the fragments indicate someone is shedding the virus, this can occur for several weeks after the person is no longer infectious and the fragments themselves are not infectious," Dr Young said.

"On top of that, local drinking water is thoroughly treated through processes that are designed to remove or kill microorganisms before they reach your taps - so there is no risk when drinking water, showering, watering the garden, swimming or other activities."

Dr Young said it was a timely reminder for people to remain vigilant and get tested.

"The discovery of these fragments is a reminder that we should not be complacent and need to keep in place good hygiene practices, maintain social distancing and get tested if you have any symptoms, no matter how mild," Dr Young said.

"It's important to clean your hands regularly and thoroughly with soap and water or alcohol-based hand rubs, cover your nose and mouth with a tissue or flexed elbow when coughing or sneezing, avoid touching your face or shaking hands, maintain a social distance of 1.5 metres in public and if unwell stay at home."

WHERE YOU CAN GET TESTED 

The Hervey Bay fever clinic is located at the council carpark adjacent to St Stephen's Hospital corner of Nissen Street and Medical Place, Urraween, and is open from 7.30am to 5.30pm each day.

 

The Maryborough fever clinic is located at Maryborough Hospital with its entrance off Yaralla Street and is open from 7.30am to 5.30pm. 

UPDATE: 11.30am

FRASER Coast Mayor George Seymour urged residents to stay calm and keep following the advice of health authorities after viral fragments of COVID-19 were detected in a sample from the Pulgul sewage treatment plant in Hervey Bay.

The sample was taken as part of a Queensland Health study testing sewage for traces of COVID-19 in a range of locations throughout regional Queensland.

Mr Seymour said the council was committed to supporting Queensland Health as the lead agency responding to COVID-19.

More to come. 

EARLIER

9.55am

LOW level viral fragments of COVID-19 have been discovered in sewage at the wastewater treatment plant in Pulgul, in Hervey Bay.

The Chronicle can reveal the result is expected to be confirmed by Queensland's deputy premier on Friday morning.

Queensland Health Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young said while the most likely cause of the viral fragments was virus shedding from a case that was no longer infectious, it could also indicate an unidentified positive case in the local community.

The positive result was found in a sample that was taken as part of a joint Queensland Health, University of Queensland and CSIRO pilot research program to test sewage for traces of COVID-19.

Sampling has been taking place at several locations across Queensland since mid-July.

Dr Young said there was minimal risk to people as the viral fragments themselves are not infectious and did not confirm that there were existing cases within the community.

"While the fragments indicate someone is shedding the virus, this can occur for several weeks after the person is no longer infectious and the fragments themselves are not infectious," Dr Young said.

"On top of that, local drinking water is thoroughly treated through processes that are designed to remove or kill microorganisms before they reach your taps - so there is no risk when drinking water, showering, watering the garden, swimming or other activities."

While the fragments themselves do not pose a risk to the community and might only indicate a person who formerly had COVID-19 was shedding the virus, Dr Young said it was a timely reminder for people to remain vigilant and get tested.

"While we cannot confirm there are COVID-19 cases within the Hervey Bay community, the discovery of these fragments is a reminder that we should not be complacent and need to keep in place good hygiene practices, maintain social distancing and ensure high testing rates," Dr Young said.

"It's important to clean your hands regularly and thoroughly with soap and water or alcohol-based hand rubs, cover your nose and mouth with a tissue or flexed elbow when coughing or sneezing, avoid touching your face or shaking hands, maintain a social distance of 1.5 metres in public and if unwell stay at home.

"It is essential to get tested if you have even mild symptoms that are linked with COVID-19, including a fever or acute respiratory symptoms such as cough, sore throat, shortness of breath.

"Testing is one of the best ways to protect yourself, your loved ones and the wider community from COVID-19."

Follow-up test results due today could provide more information.


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