Technology used by New York City public health officials to spot cases of Legionnaires’ disease or a serious food-borne illness has now been fine-tuned to pick up potentially connected cases of the novel coronavirus.
It is the latest advancement in an effort by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to tease out potential links in clusters over time and, hopefully, trace back to the initial sources of infection.
“It’s not just about test, test, test everybody, although that’s important,” said Dr. Oxiris Barbot, New York City’s health commissioner. “It is about how you take that information and make smart decisions and really track down where transmission is actively happening.”
One tool, which officials have said they are now using, is testing of the city’s wastewater for evidence of the coronavirus. That effort could help health workers track a resurgence of the disease.
The analytical tool now being rolled out by the health department is a software called SaTScan. It works by looking at coronavirus cases reported by laboratories and comparing them against what is expected in an area over time.
If the system shows more cases than typically expected, it triggers a signal to health department epidemiologists to do deeper case investigations, said Demetre Daskalakis, deputy commissioner for the division of disease control at the city’s health department.
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