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Monitoring SARS-CoV-2 using infoveillance, national reporting data, and wastewater in Wales, United Kingdom: Mixed methods study

Cuff, Jordan P., Dighe, Shrinivas Nivrutti ORCID:, Watson, Sophie E., Badell-Grau, Rafael A., Weightman, Andrew J. ORCID:, Jones, Davey L. and Kille, Peter ORCID: 2023. Monitoring SARS-CoV-2 using infoveillance, national reporting data, and wastewater in Wales, United Kingdom: Mixed methods study. JMIR Infodemiology 3 , e43891. 10.2196/43891

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Background: The COVID-19 pandemic necessitated rapid real-time surveillance of epidemiological data to advise governments and the public, but the accuracy of these data depends on myriad auxiliary assumptions, not least accurate reporting of cases by the public. Wastewater monitoring has emerged internationally as an accurate and objective means for assessing disease prevalence with reduced latency and less dependence on public vigilance, reliability, and engagement. How public interest aligns with COVID-19 personal testing data and wastewater monitoring is, however, very poorly characterized. Objective: This study aims to assess the associations between internet search volume data relevant to COVID-19, public health care statistics, and national-scale wastewater monitoring of SARS-CoV-2 across South Wales, United Kingdom, over time to investigate how interest in the pandemic may reflect the prevalence of SARS-CoV-2, as detected by national testing and wastewater monitoring, and how these data could be used to predict case numbers. Methods: Relative search volume data from Google Trends for search terms linked to the COVID-19 pandemic were extracted and compared against government-reported COVID-19 statistics and quantitative reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-qPCR) SARS-CoV-2 data generated from wastewater in South Wales, United Kingdom, using multivariate linear models, correlation analysis, and predictions from linear models. Results: Wastewater monitoring, most infoveillance terms, and nationally reported cases significantly correlated, but these relationships changed over time. Wastewater surveillance data and some infoveillance search terms generated predictions of case numbers that correlated with reported case numbers, but the accuracy of these predictions was inconsistent and many of the relationships changed over time. Conclusions: Wastewater monitoring presents a valuable means for assessing population-level prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 and could be integrated with other data types such as infoveillance for increasingly accurate inference of virus prevalence. The importance of such monitoring is increasingly clear as a means of objectively assessing the prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 to circumvent the dynamic interest and participation of the public. Increased accessibility of wastewater monitoring data to the public, as is the case for other national data, may enhance public engagement with these forms of monitoring.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Biosciences
Publisher: JMIR Publications
ISSN: 2564-1891
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 9 October 2023
Date of Acceptance: 1 October 2023
Last Modified: 05 Dec 2023 10:06

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