Researcher in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. says swabbing for COVID-19 at airports can help predict outbreaks
Dr. Lucas Castellani says most areas his team swabbed at the Sault Ste. Marie airport had the virus
Swabbing for COVID-19 on surfaces at airports could help predict and prevent outbreaks, according to a researcher who helped author a new study on detecting the virus.
Dr. Lucas Castellani, the medical director of infection prevention and control at Sault Area Hospital, was one of the authors of a study published in NEJM (New England Journal of Medicine) Evidence, which focused on the presence of COVID-19 in long-term care homes.
Researchers swabbed the floors in 10 long-term care homes across Ontario – mostly in Ottawa, Toronto and Sault Ste. Marie – looking for the SARS-CoV-2 virus which causes the infection.
"Detection of SARS-CoV-2 on floors is strongly associated with COVID-19 outbreaks in LTCHs (long-term care homes)," the study concluded.
"These data suggest a potential role for floor sampling in improving early outbreak identification."
While long-term care homes were the main focus, Castellani said his team also swabbed floors at the Sault Ste. Marie Airport.
Castellani said the majority of the areas they swabbed tested positive for the virus that causes COVID-19.
While a person can't catch COVID-19 from a surface with the virus, Castellani said swabbing floors can help predict whether an area is likely to get an outbreak.
"When you're breathing all the time the virus will come out," he said.
"If you have COVID-19, the virus comes out and where does the virus land? It lands on the floor."
Castellani said if places like long-term care homes and airports, which get a lot of foot traffic, can have that information in advance, they can take preventive measures to stop outbreaks from happening in the first place.
"We're still seeing continual infections and continual numbers. The complications that we have seen in the past, maybe not the same amount, but we're seeing it," he said.
"It hasn't gone away."
With files from Warren Schlote