Civic News

With the monkeypox dashboard, DC Health hopes to use lessons from COVID reporting

The new dashboard for moneypox cases and vaccines largely drew from methods that the district used to develop its public COVID-19 tracker, said DC Health's Dr. Anil Mangla.

DC's monkeypox dashboard benefitted from the COVID-19 pandemic's public health lessons.

Photo by flickr user Michael Haven

As we hear increasing reports about a growing viral outbreak on top of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the District of Columbia Department of Health (also known as DC Health) wants to keep residents as informed as it can.

The district’s public health agency last week launched a dashboard that tracks monkeypox throughout its jurisdiction. Dr. Anil Mangla, DC Health’s state epidemiologist, said the decision to build the dashboard came after a meeting with regional state epidemiologists in Virginia and Maryland. The city had already been tracking this data since the virus first came to the region.

“We decided: Let’s change the data into a more presentable form, and that was very easy since the data was already there,” Mangla told Technical.ly.

At present, users can break down case and vaccination data by age, gender, race/ethnicity and ward. The dashboard currently reports a total of 350 monkeypox cases, largely from male-identifying residents between the ages of 25 and 49. So far, 16,124 vaccinations have been distributed.

Dr. Anil Mangla stands next to the DC flag

Dr. Anil Mangla. (Courtesy photo)

Mangla added that the dashboard is made to be continuously improved, and DC Health will add more information as it’s wanted from residents and local officials. Right now, he sees it as mostly the essentials of what people want to know.

“When you look at data and education, education is knowledge,” Mangla said. “Data is knowledge, in a sense that individuals are understanding. They look [at] the data, and they can then self-evaluate.”

The department currently uses the data analytics platform Tableau to create tables and display the data, as well as several other platforms that its data team created to pull the information. The dashboard currently pulls from the case reports it receives from doctors’ offices and other care providers. It also collects lab responses among affiliated surveillance systems. DC Health was not immediately able to provide more information on the team and the data platforms.

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The dashboard went live last Wednesday, just one day after eight DC Council members sent a letter to interim director Sharon Lewis for more public information about the virus.

For DC, this move presents an opportunity to build on and grow from two years of data-tracking experience via the district’s COVID-19 dashboard. Mangla said the department’s data team used the same methods for the monkeypox dashboard as it did to create the COVID-19 one, which helped get it up so quickly. He also noted that getting the dashboard up as soon as possible was a priority that the COVID-19 experience informed.

“What we learned from COVID is: Get this implemented, get this started sooner rather than later,” Mangla said. “We had this information and we decided, let’s just get it out to the public and have a look at where we are, what the trends are and what are our next steps?”

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