Fragments of the COVID-19 virus have been found in the Byron Bay sewerage treatment plant (STP) that services Byron Bay, Broken Head, Suffolk Park, Wategos, and Sunrise areas and the Northern NSW Local Health District (NNSWHD) are asking residents and visitors to get tested at the first sign of any symptoms.
‘At present, there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 anywhere in the Northern NSW Local Health District,’ Paul Corben, Director North Coast Public Health Unit said.
‘Testing sewage can help provide early warning of undetected infections in an area. In this instance, where there are no known cases of COVID-19 this is of particular concern.’
No other STPs positive so far
There have been no other sewage detections in samples taken at the 12 collection sites within the NNSWHD. The last positive sewage detection in the area was in Lennox Head in April 2021 that was related to a known case of COVID infection.
‘Detection of virus fragments in sewage can also be due to shedding of the virus by someone who may have previously had the illness and may no longer be infectious,’ said Mr Corben.
‘It can also be the result of a person with COVID-19 who may have visited the community and has since left the area. As well as being present in stools, viral fragments can enter the sewer when washed off hands and bodies through sinks and showers.
‘Usual sewage treatment processes inactivate, or kill, the COVID-19 virus.’
COVID-19 testing capacity increased
Additional resources have been allocated to testing clinics in the area, to increase capacity in response to the sewage detection.
‘We strongly encourage residents and visitors in the area to remain vigilant and get tested at the first sign of illness,’ said Mr Corben.
Symptoms of COVID-19 can include a runny nose, scratchy or sore throat, cough, fever, shortness of breath, headache, tiredness, loss of taste or smell, nausea, diarrhoea or muscle aches.
Anyone feeling unwell should immediately get tested and self-isolate until they receive a negative result, so that any potential cases in the community are identified as quickly as possible.
There are more than 25 testing clinics across Northern NSW, including:
- Byron Bay Sullivan Nicolaides Pathology, 1 Byron Street, Byron Bay.
- Byron Central Hospital, 54 Ewingsdale Road, Ewingsdale
- Ocean Shores Sullivan Nicolaides Pathology, 84 Rajah Rd, Ocean Shores
- Mullumbimby Sullivan Nicolaides Pathology, 125 Daley Street, Mullumbimby
- Lennox Head Sullivan Nicolaides Pathology, Shop 4, 62 Ballina Street, Lennox Head.
An additional drive through clinic is also now open:
- Byron Bay QML Pathology Drive-Through, Cavanbah Sports Ground, 249
Ewingsdale Rd, Byron Bay. Open until 4pm today. Open from 8am Saturday and Sunday.
A full list of clinic locations and opening hours are listed on the NSW government website at COVID-19 testing clinics.
There are more than 400 COVID-19 testing locations across NSW, many of which are open seven days a week.
NNSWLHD is also encouraging people to get vaccinated as soon as possible to protect themselves against COVID-19.