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Wastewater monitoring in Texas picked up an early signal of the bird flu outbreak

·1 min

In early March, a team of researchers in Texas prepared for a potential pandemic by conducting a simulation. They considered the scenario of detecting the bird flu virus, H5N1, in the wastewater they monitor. Shortly after the simulation, a virologist from Baylor College of Medicine discovered H5N1 in the wastewater samples. Unlike other organizations that search for specific viruses, the researchers in Texas use advanced techniques to analyze the genetic material in their samples, allowing them to identify both known and unknown viruses. Wastewater monitoring provides a passive and accessible method for detecting viruses, although it is challenging to trace the source of the pathogens. The researchers have found H5N1 in various wastewater sites across the state, indicating a potential spread. However, they caution that without evidence of severe infections or increased flu cases in hospitals, it is challenging to understand the true impact of the outbreak.