Our New Respiratory Dashboard Can Help You Track COVID-19, Flu, RSV, and More


Last week, we released our new Dane County Respiratory Illness Dashboard. We’ve packed a lot of information into it so that you can answer any question you have about the current respiratory season. We know it might also be overwhelming to page through the dashboard, so we’ve broken down our favorite ways to use the dashboard below.

Check out the homepage for main takeaways.

dashboard module showing weekly summary section

The homepage can quickly answer big questions, like “Is there a lot of COVID out there?” or “is the flu finally going down?”

The weekly summary section shows you the level and trend for COVID-19, flu, RSV, and all respiratory illnesses combined (including things like common colds). The level will tell you how much illness we are seeing—either minimal, low, moderate, substantial, or high. The trend will tell you if it’s going up, going down, or staying the same. If you want to see the trends in a graph, you can click on the “overall trends” page to get details.

module from dashboard showing first alert section

The first alert section has our earliest data: COVID wastewater and school absences. School absences due to illness have been shown to predict flu in the broader community. If there’s an alert here, it means that there’s a possibility of a future spike in COVID or flu—although we take these data with a grain of salt, because they won’t be 100% accurate. If only we had a crystal ball—but this is as close as we can get!

Learn about cutting-edge data coming from Dane County scientists.

The school absences page has details about the flu indicators that are on the homepage. This page is a collaboration with a research study called ORCHARDS, which tracks illness-related absences in one Dane County school district. In addition to absences due to illness, they also test sick students who participate in the study to find out what illness they have. Those test results are also on this page and are helpful to see what illnesses are going around.

The air samplers page shows results from another team of UW-Madison researchers (Drs. Shelby O’Connor and Dave O’Connor). They put air sampling machines in different schools in or near Dane County. The air sampling machines collect viruses from the air on a filter, which is then tested for COVID-19 and flu. It’s one of our only data sources that doesn’t rely on people seeking health care and getting tested—because they’re testing the air directly! The darker the color, the more positive air samples.

heat map from dashboard showing air samplers data

Track all sorts of respiratory illnesses aside from the big 3.

COVID, flu, RSV—you probably are familiar with at least one or two of these. But do you know about parainfluenza, rhinovirus, or human metapneumovirus? There are many respiratory pathogens out there, and they can cause anything from the common cold to pneumonia.

The lab testing trends page lets you see trends for an expanded number of viruses. If you’re wondering if the common cold rhinovirus is circulating, this is your page! We also show COVID, flu, and RSV trends on this page. We get these data from some clinical laboratories that test for these viruses, who send trend data to health departments so we can monitor for spikes.

So I’m tracking these respiratory illnesses—now what?

The purpose of gathering and presenting this information in one place is to help you make decisions about your and your family’s health. These decisions will look differently based on your circumstances. You might use it to decide when to wear a mask in public, adjust travel plans, keep immunocompromised loved ones safer, or encourage loved ones to get up to date with their vaccines—or just to know what illnesses are circulating. This dashboard is probably just one piece of your decision-making process.   

Check out other sources for even more info.

This content is free for use with credit to Public Health Madison & Dane County .

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