NSW Health is now taking a closer look at Port Macquarie-Hastings poo to complement its testing regime for COVID-19.
It has now been 176 days since the last locally-acquired COVID-19 case was recorded in the region.
Across the Mid North Coast, 53,701 tests have been conducted since early February, with a small spike in testing post-school holidays.
NSW Health is expanding its sewage surveillance program to analyse samples of raw sewage from 65 sites in metropolitan and regional centres, looking for evidence of shed SARS-CoV-2 virus.
Since sampling began on the Mid North Coast last month, there have been no detections of any virus fragments drawn from the two sites at Coffs Harbour and Port Macquarie.
Director of Public Health Paul Corben said the sewage testing has now entered its fourth week and four clear samples have been returned.
An infected person can shed virus in their faeces even if they do not have any symptoms, and shedding can continue for several weeks after they are no longer infectious.
The NSW sewage surveillance for SARS-CoV-2 is in the preliminary stages of analysis and work is progressing to assess the significance of the results.
To date there have been detections of the virus fragments in samples from multiple sewage treatment plants in NSW including Perisher, Newcastle, Byron Bay, Blue Mountains and metropolitan Sydney sites.
"This is an additional surveillance mechanism to look for this virus and is an adjunct to the testing of humans," Mr Corben said.
"It is useful in areas where we don't have any human cases of COVID. Because the symptoms can be very mild and people can be asymptomatic and still be infected, it's a clever way of using technology that's used for testing of other things, to detect if the virus is in our community.
"But we continue to encourage people with even the mildest of symptoms to visit a COVID-19 clinic and get tested. Testing is free, quick and easy and should be repeated every time a new symptom occurs."
Mr Corben said with the winter sniffle season at its end and the significant improvement in the number of new cases in Victoria and New South Wales, people can falsely believe the risk has gone away.
"And that is certainly not the case," Mr Corben said.
"With Port Macquarie a holiday place and mix of people coming in from different communities usually poses a risk factor for the transmission of all sorts of other infectious diseases.
"There was a slight increase in testing after the holidays last week after the school holidays but the general trend in the last six or seven weeks for testing is downwards.
"Fewer people are presenting for tests and are not as alert about getting tested quickly."
Through to the end of the the year the message remains the same and NSW Health will continue to work closely with Business NSW and Regional Development Australia to ensure businesses on the Mid North Coast can adapt and change safely as restrictions are eased.
Mr Corben said in comparison to other countries experiencing huge spikes in infections, Australia has reaped some reward in not relaxing restrictions too early.
"It is difficult walking the line between protecting public health and protecting the economy. Jobs are good for people's health and certainly their mental health but it is a complex and difficult thing for governments and communities to manage," he said.
"In Australia we've had an evidence driven response with slightly different experiences in different states.
"But we've all take a similar approach to strong controls, trying to identify cases and isolate cases and their contacts rapidly.
"In NSW our network of public health units is valuable and able to react and respond locally."
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