Stratford has received mention as an example of good procedure by the World Health Organisation.
In the recent guidance report on environmental surveillance to detect Covid-19, Stratford was cited as an example of best practice.
Covid was first detected in a Stratford wastewater sample collected on November 2, 2021 and sent to the Institute of Environment and Science Research (ESR), says Dr Jonathan Jarman, medical officer of health with the Taranaki Public Health Unit (PHU).
"At the time there were no known cases of Covid-19 in the Stratford district. We needed to be disease detectives and the job of the PHU was to track down where the Covid fragments in the wastewater were coming from."
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Jonathan says it was then a team effort to trace the source of the Covid in the wastewater, involving the ESR which did the wastewater testing, doctors, nurses, iwi providers, pharmacists, Covid testers, Stratford District Council, the district health board and others.
"And of course, the community itself who came forward to have the Covid tests. Eventually six clinical cases were identified who did not transmit the virus to anyone outside of their household, at least in part because of the heightened awareness that wastewater testing provided. This became a story of how a small rural Taranaki town managed to put the Delta variant of Covid back in the box and achieve a WHO commendation."
The WHO report says the success was enabled by "strong collaboration between national, regional, iwi and community health authorities and providers in supporting the response through messaging, testing and vaccination initiatives, buy-in from the community, and clear and constant messaging to the public from the media."
Jonathan says during the two years of the pandemic, a large number of people have been working very long hours with the aim of keeping as many people as safe as possible from Covid-19.
"They don't get thanked very often so this mention by the WHO is really nice."