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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Friday, February 23, 2024

Wisconsin's monkeypox vaccine rates are disproportionately lower in communities of color.

County launches dashboard to track respiratory illnesses

Public Health Madison and Dane County began tracking COVID-19 cases during the pandemic but expanded to track influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) Monday.

Madison and Dane County health officials unveiled a new dashboard Monday to track trends of viral illnesses, including COVID-19, influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). 

The dashboard monitors trends from lab-developed samples, school absences, air samples, hospitalizations and mortalities. The dashboard will provide weekly respiratory illness tracking data updates on Thursdays at 12:30 p.m.

Members of Public Health Madison and Dane County’s data team combine the statistics to provide an overview of respiratory illness trends. Katarina Grande, the epidemiology and data science team’s manager at Public Health Madison and Dane County, told The Daily Cardinal the dashboard is modeled after the success of the county’s previous COVID-19 dashboard.

“During the public health COVID-19 emergency, there was remarkable interest in the data shared on the Dane County COVID-19 dashboard, with the dashboard being viewed over half a million times,” Grande said in an email. “Our community remains interested in respiratory illnesses. In response, we’ve pivoted from a COVID-19-focused dashboard to a broader respiratory illness dashboard.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) expects COVID-19, influenza and RSV hospitalizations will be similar to last year and remain higher than before the pandemic. Respiratory illness levels in Dane County remained low as of Oct. 19, according to tracking data from the dashboard.

Additionally, the CDC said 2023 will be the first time in U.S. history COVID-19, RSV and influenza vaccines will be available simultaneously. Grande said the fall is a critical time for virus tracking since respiratory illnesses typically become more prevalent in the fall and winter.

“Given our aim is to provide data to inform action — the prevention of respiratory illnesses — our intention was to release these data at the most relevant moment to achieve our aim,” Grande said.

Infectious disease experts told Johns Hopkins School of Public Health in July the U.S. experienced a “triplademic” of RSV, influenza and COVID-19 in 2022. To avoid another year of prolific infection, Public Health Madison and Dane County urged residents to monitor the dashboard while continuing virus-prevention practices.

According to Grande, the dashboard helps residents find information about current trends in the proliferation of respiratory illnesses, allowing them to take appropriate safety precautions

“In addition to standard precautions that are important during the entire respiratory illness season — such as handwashing, staying home when sick, getting up-to-date vaccinations — this dashboard adds context that is valuable for planning,” Grande said. “We’ve designed the dashboard to make it easy to access information on the populations that are most relevant to you and your family.”

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