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'It’s only a matter of time so let’s be prepared': GLIER researcher on future pandemics

INSPIRE, or the Integrated Network for the Surveillance of Pathogens, kicked off Wednesday, June 12, 2024. (Stefanie Masotti/CTV News Windsor) INSPIRE, or the Integrated Network for the Surveillance of Pathogens, kicked off Wednesday, June 12, 2024. (Stefanie Masotti/CTV News Windsor)
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The Ontario Government will end its wastewater surveillance program as of July 31.

“We were devastated by that news,” says Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research director Mike McKay. “Most areas will lose surveillance coverage and this important information that is provided in a timely manner to local public health units.”

To eliminate data duplication, the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) will expand its footprint in wastewater surveillance.

McKay says PHAC will have four or five sites across the province including one in Windsor.

INSPIRE, or the Integrated Network for the Surveillance of Pathogens, kicked off Wednesday at GLIER, with the University of Windsor leading the $15 million federally funded research project.

The goal is to consolidate a cross border network of pathogen surveillance comprising of dozens of experts in the bio manufacturing sectors from universities and public and private agencies across Canada and the United States.

“When we are looking at the emergence of bio threats, we have to certainly look at our country but bio threats from elsewhere so having surveillance at strategic border locations such as Windsor-Detroit, Buffalo Fort Erie Niagara are important so we keep tabs on what is potentially entering the country,” adds Dr. McKay.

To date, McKay says wastewaters surveillance has monitoring COVID-19, Influenza A and B and RSV.

“We can detect anything that infects a human,” says McKay. But there is now concern of the avian influenza, H5N1. “We know that it has crossed species and has infected a number of dairy herds in Michigan.”

He says there are sign of it in Michigan’s wastewater.

“Is it human or is it contaminated milk that were permitted discharged into wastewater systems.”

It’s one of a number of viruses on radar.

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