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Wisconsin to conduct 2 health surveys to track COVID-19

Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Two population health studies in Wisconsin are being conducted to better understand where COVID-19 is in the state, identify places at risk for a future outbreak and help prevent the spread of the virus, the state Department of Health Services announced Wednesday.

The first study will be led by the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Survey of the Health of Wisconsin, also known as SHOW. It is meant to learn how many people have COVID-19 antibodies. The presence of antibodies indicates that a person had COVID-19 in the past, perhaps without knowing it.

People who have participated in past SHOW research will be chosen from 10 randomly selected counties and the city of Milwaukee to form a representative state sample, said the group director, Kristen Malecki.

The second study will test samples from wastewater-treatment centers, in both urban and rural areas, to learn the current concentration levels of virus genetic material found in sewage.

Water testing can help health officials identify where and to what extent COVID-19 is circulating within a community so they can curtail its transmission, the state health department said.

The survey is designed to help local officials deal with possible surges in cases, not to replace existing public-health surveillance, said Dr. Jonathan Meiman, chief medical officer for the state health department’s Bureau of Environmental and Occupational Health.

The Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene is working with the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources on that study.

Both of the newly announced surveys are scheduled to last a year.

There had been 703 deaths in Wisconsin attributed to COVID-19 and nearly 23,200 confirmed cases by Tuesday. Of those who contracted the virus, 74% have recovered and 3% have died, the health department said.

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