COVID-19 in WA: Testing alert after ‘unexpected’ detection of virus in City Beach wastewater

Headshot of Peter Law
Peter LawThe West Australian
City Beach residents are being urged to get tested.
Camera IconCity Beach residents are being urged to get tested. Credit: The West Australian

An “unexpected” detection of COVID-19 in wastewater in City Beach has sparked calls for anyone in the area with symptoms to get tested.

An alert sent to WA Health clinicians states it may indicate the presence of a COVID positive person either living in the area or who passed through.

It could also be that someone who recently recovered from COVID-19 is continuing to shed the virus.

Testing was “strongly recommended” for anyone with symptoms who either lives in City Beach or had been through the affluent Western Suburbs area.

Unexpected detections in wastewater samples indicate the presence of COVID in areas not known to have cases.

Australia Day 2022. City Beach.
Camera IconCOVID has been detected in wastewater in the affluent western suburb of City Beach. Credit: Simon Santi/The West Australian

In a statement, WA Health later confirmed viral fragments were detected in a sample collected on January 25 from wastewater in City Beach and surrounding suburbs, including Wembley Downs and Floreat.

On Thursday, WA Chief Health Officer Andy Robertson told ABC radio “pings” had been detected in wastewater samples from the Subiaco and Mandurah areas.

The Mandurah area includes Barragup, North Mandurah, West Murray, West Pinjarra and Yunderup..

“What it means is we have detected viral particles within that wastewater. That could be somebody passing through the area, it’s obviously somebody who has used the toilet in the area,” he said.

“(It could be) somebody who doesn’t necessarily live there or it could be somebody who is living there and who has symptoms or is asymptomatic and has the disease.

“In those areas we would encourage people, particularly if you’ve got symptoms, to go and get tested. If you are feeling a little unwell, get tested.

“(Wastewater surveillance) are quite useful indicators for areas where we may not have expected, at this stage, to be getting ‘pings’ to say we may have disease in that area.

“If we get it in a country area, for example, at this stage then obviously we would take that very seriously and encourage people to get tested.”

Data published by WA Health shows there had also been “expected detections” at the Beenyup, Subiaco, Woodman Point, Spearwood, Richmond, Kardinya and Armagh catchments over the past two weeks.

These areas were known to have cases in the area, such as international travellers in hotel quarantine or interstate arrivals in self-isolation.

The alert told the hospital workforce that as of Wednesday evening, there were 117 cases associated with the current Omicron outbreak in WA.

These included 12 clusters in Perth’s southern suburbs, the South West and the Wheatbelt, where one case had been detected in Cunderdin.

Most of these clusters do not have clear epidemiological links to other clusters, indicating unknown chains of transmission and presence of undiagnosed cases who were infectious in the community.

Staff were told that all patients with COVID symptoms should undergo a PCR test, even if their symptoms were mild and regardless of whether they visited one of the almost 200 exposure sites.

Earlier, all 12 doctors at a private hospital who were in isolation after being casual contacts of a COVID case at a Perth nightclub returned negative test results.

The doctors, who work at St John of God Subiaco Hospital, were required to isolate until they received the all-clear after they partied in the early hours of Sunday at the Hip-E Club in Leederville.

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