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Researchers find virus that causes COVID-19 in Lake Superior beach water

Researchers from M Medical School say that for the first time they know about the virus, which is found in lake water all over the country.

DALYUT, Min. – For most of the summer, Dr. Richard Melvin tries to answer the question: Can SARS-CoV-2 be found in beach water?

He found his answer over the weekend of September 11: Yes. Now he has many more questions to answer.

“It’s just kind of mysterious,”

; said Melvin, an assistant professor in the Department of Biomedical Sciences at the University of Duluth at the Medical School in M.

This is mysterious, Melvin says, because since July 4, he has been sampling every weekend from eight beaches on Lake Superior and testing them with his team for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

Then, after sampling over the weekend of September 11, he found traces of the virus in water on four Duluth beaches: Brighton Beach, 42nd Avenue Beach, the beach near Leif Erickson Park and Park Point Beach near Franklin Tot Lot .

This is the first time Melvin has known that the virus is found in lake water anywhere in the country. Mainly because Melvin and his collaborators don’t know about this kind of research being done anywhere else.

Their hypothesis was that swimmers introduced the virus into the beach water. Melvin says a person can shed the virus within a month after no longer showing symptoms.

“We are now entering a season where people do not enter the water on the beach and we suddenly find traces of the virus,” he said. “So that’s very interesting.”

Melvin says that’s why research will continue. Funding from Minnesota Sea Grant has been extended, and Melvin says he will continue to take water samples for at least the next few months.

Melvin emphasizes that there is no evidence that humans can become infected through water. But now that researchers know that SARS-CoV-2 can be found in fresh water, there is still much to learn, especially about how community infection can be measured.

“Understanding where to look for the virus is really key to how to deal with these types of infections in the future,” he said. “Now that we can find it in the water of the lake, this may be another indicator of the spread of the virus among the population living in this place.”

The researchers will also work with experts in lake currents and the Minnesota Department of Health as their work progresses.

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