Monkeypox: City of Houston to begin community sewage testing to monitor virus levels
Houston, TX — The City of Houston will soon begin monitoring its sewer system for monkeypox, Mayor Sylvester Turner announced at a news conference Aug. 3.
Turner said testing will begin within the next few weeks. The money will soon be taken from the fund balance and brought to the Houston City Council to help the Houston Department of Health monitor monkeypox, he said.
As previously reported by Community Impact Journal, sewage testing has been around for more than 80 years, but Houston started using the technique in 2020 to help gain knowledge about the prevalence of the coronavirus in the community. HHD, Houston Public Works, and Rice University are partnering to collect rinse water data from Houston’s 39 wastewater treatment facilities.
At the press conference, Houston ER Medical Director Dr. David Persse said monitoring for COVID-19 gives hospitals the opportunity to get three weeks’ notice of what to expect. in terms of trends and hospitalizations.
With monkeypox, Persse said sewage testing would give the city a better idea of the geographic location of the virus. However, since it is a different virus with different pathogens and physiology, he said it will be a learning process as you go.
As of August 4, the Harris County Public Health Department has reported 165 total cases of monkeypox, with 143 reported in the city of Houston and 22 in the rest of Harris County. To combat the spread of the virus, the county and city are administering vaccines to high-risk groups, such as people who attended an event or place with a high risk of exposure to the virus and skin-to-skin contact. ; people who have been diagnosed with gonorrhea or early syphilis within the last three months; and people who work in a place of commercial sex or other places where a person has anonymous sex or sex with multiple partners.
Persse said the vaccine is for “risk takers”.
“Pay attention to your behaviors,” Persse said. “If you’re dating new sexual partners, you’re at high risk, but you’re in control.”
As previously reported by Community Impact Journal, the city and county received an additional 16,780 doses of the Jynneos vaccine to treat the increase in monkeypox cases. However, Turner told the press conference that more vaccines are needed.
If supply doesn’t keep up with demand and the numbers start to double, Turner said he would consider declaring a public health emergency. For the time being, he said such a statement was not necessary.
“We look at the numbers every day,” Turner said. “We’re not there yet.”
Additional information about monkeypox, how to test for it, and how to get vaccinated can be found here.
For more, continue to our partner ABC13 at the Community Impact newspaper.