DSHS Introduces Interactive Respiratory Illness Dashboard
By Patrick McDaid

The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) has developed an interactive dashboard to help physicians across the state combat respiratory illness during its peak season, which typically runs from October through May in Texas.  

State officials say the Texas Respiratory Illness Interactive Dashboard and Surveillance Report is meant to support physicians in their clinical decision-making and patient counseling with near-real-time data. It also gives local authorities a snapshot of the disease burden for preparedness planning. 

The tool features trends in hospitalization rates, emergency department visits, and deaths for COVID-19, respiratory syncytial virus, and influenza. It updates each Friday and includes age breakdowns for all categories and brief reports summarizing week-to-week trends. 

Chief State Epidemiologist Varun Shetty, MD, says the week-to-week reports provide a sample size beneficial to physicians. 

“The [current] cadence we have allows us to see if something is an actual trend and not just an outlier. [This is why] we do it over a weeklong period and not day-to-day,” Dr. Shetty said.  

“Visualizing current trends in respiratory virus activity can support a physician’s decision to test for specific viruses and can be a powerful visual tool when making recommendations for seasonal vaccines.” 

He says DSHS’ current focus is on the uptick in influenza activity, accounting for 7% of total emergency visits in Texas.  

“In the present moment, influenza is a priority. [With the help of] the dashboard, we can see it clearly.” 

DSHS also publishes a weekly Texas Viral Respiratory Surveillance report with additional information. The agency invites feedback from physicians, to Dr. Shetty, on their experiences using this tool and suggestions for improvement.

“A large component of our respiratory disease surveillance is based on voluntary lab reporting, and we have lots of room to improve here. Reporting is critical to improving our confidence in disease trends and the geographic and demographic representativeness of our data,” Dr. Shetty said. 

Last Updated On

February 08, 2024

Originally Published On

February 08, 2024

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Patrick McDaid

Patrick McDaid is a reporter for Texas Medicine Today and Texas Medicine. His prior work included local newspaper journalism in New Jersey after graduating from Temple University’s Klein College of Media and Communication in Philadelphia. A new resident to Texas after 25 years of Northeast living, Patrick is eager to explore the best coffee shops, sports game venues, and outdoor trails that Austin has to offer.

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