IDPH launches online tool that tracks COVID-19

Published: Jan. 10, 2023 at 1:45 PM CST|Updated: Jan. 10, 2023 at 5:47 PM CST
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CHICAGO, Ill. (WIFR) - An online tool that tracks pathogens in wastewater samples across Illinois is now accessible to the public.

The Discovery Partners Institute (DPI) in-part with the University of Illinois, and the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) launched the website Tuesday.

Originators hope the tool will provide a first line of defense in pandemic preparedness.

“Wastewater surveillance is a great tool that can help detect and monitor COVID-19, the flu and other pathogens,” said Dr. Sameer Vohra, IDPH director. “This new website is designed to inform and educate residents of Illinois and will give them the ability to make informed decisions about how to protect themselves.”

The interactive map uses statistics from the CDC’s COVID Data Tracker website, sharing Illinois-specific data in easy-to-understand charts.

Visitors can search by city or county for up-to-date information from any of the 75 wastewater treatment plants collecting samples to be screened for the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Samples are collected twice a week and taken to a high-throughput lab at the University of Illinois Chicago for analysis, then to Argonne National Laboratory to identify virus variants.

Monitoring wastewater for the coronavirus is an accurate and cost-effective way to measure COVID-19 levels. Public health authorities rely more on wastewater analysis now that the public moved to at-home COVID-19 testing without reporting results.

“This data is now going to be available to researchers and the public alike, giving everyone as accurate picture as possible for the pandemic,” said Bill Jackson, executive director of DPI. “This is a game-changer in terms of transparency and public health awareness, and we applaud IDPH for partnering with us on this bold step.”