Routine waste water testing has returned a positive result for viral fragments of COVID-19 in sewage at the treatment plant at Carole Park in Ipswich.
The sample was taken on October 22 as part of a joint Queensland Health, University of Queensland and CSIRO pilot research program to test sewage for traces of COVID-19.
While positive results have been reported at several areas across the state in recent weeks, Queensland Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young said the Ipswich result was of concern.
“Positive results from a month ago were most likely caused by virus shedding from a case that was no longer infectious. Viral shedding can occur for several weeks after recovery from COVID-19,” Dr Young said.
“We are uncertain about the cause of the positive result.
“We have had several weeks’ worth of negative results at this wastewater testing location since the Brisbane Youth Detention Centre cluster.
“There is a very real possibility this wastewater result is a sign of one or more undetected positive COVID-19 cases in the Ipswich community, and we are treating this seriously.”
Ipswich Mayor Teresa Harding said council would work closely with West Moreton Health and be prepared if the matter escalated.
“At this stage, our best advice is to continue what we have been doing so well: practice social distancing, good hygiene and if you are unwell or have any concerns about your health get tested,” she said.
“Ipswich has done the right thing all along and I am confident we will continue to do so and get through this together.”
Mayor Harding said residents could go to the fever clinic at Ipswich Hospital for Covid-19 testing.
Dr Young urged the Ipswich community to get tested immediately if they have any COVID-19 symptoms, no matter how mild.
“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 when sick,” Dr Young said.
“If there is a case in the community, it is critical we detect it through our testing mechanisms as quickly as possible to contain any potential spread and protect the great progress Queensland has made in recent months.
“But I also want to reassure the community, 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.”
The fever clinic at Ipswich Hospital stands ready to expand testing hours to cope with any additional demand from the community, and the region also hosts several pathology, community and respiratory clinics.
The areas serviced by the Carole Park treatment plant include suburbs in and around parts of Ipswich, including Camira, Carole Park, and Springfield.
Information on the WMHHS Fever Clinics
Ipswich Hospital – drop-in clinic
Jubilee Building, Chelmsford Avenue, Ipswich
To find your closest COVID-19 testing location, including GPs, private pathology and Respiratory Clinics, visit https://www.qld.gov.au/health/conditions/health-alerts/coronavirus-covid-19/stay-informed/testing-and-fever-clinics and enter your postcode.
It comes as the state records two new cases of COVID-19, a 45-year-old male and a 49-year-old female, both overseas travellers in hotel quarantine in Cairns.
The common symptoms of COVID-19 include:
- Sore throat
- Runny nose
- Shortness of breath
- Loss of taste
- Loss of smell.