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University of Alberta researchers develop online tool to map COVID-19 data

In this illustration provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in January 2020 shows the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV). This virus was identified as the cause of an outbreak of respiratory illness first detected in Wuhan, China.
In this illustration provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in January 2020 shows the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV). This virus was identified as the cause of an outbreak of respiratory illness first detected in Wuhan, China. THE CANADIAN PRESS/CDC via AP, File

As COVID-19 continues to spread across the globe, a group of researchers at the University of Alberta have developed an interactive online tool to help map the virus.

The COVIDmapper uses several algorithms to pull and process information from different resources, including the World Health Organization, governments and post-secondary institutions across the world, to better assess the impact of the pandemic.

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“COVIDmapper is more flexible and informative than almost any other heat mapping tool on the web,” David Wishart, a professor with the U of A said.

“We plot the number of cases, the number of deaths, the daily percentage change of cases and deaths, the number of COVID tests performed, and most importantly, the ‘real’ number of cases — calculated from several models of the incident fatality rates.”

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The COVIDmapper can be used to visualize past, current and projected future data related to the coronavirus, from every corner of the world.

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Wishart said this kind of heat-mapping tool is used often by experts, but he hopes to further the reach of the data to encompass the general public.

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“Epidemiologists use geographic mapping data to track epidemics and pandemics,” he said.

“However, we felt it was also important to collect and publicly release this COVID data in a format that is usable and understandable by the public, the news media, politicians, public health officials, medical groups, and other members of the community that are trying to understand or plan for the pandemic.”

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Wishart said the data collected by the COVIDmapper will also be helpful for future researchers to better establish effective intervention methods and future pandemic planning.

The software is modelled after a web-based tool, the Heatmapper, which was originally developed by Wishart and his colleagues in 2016 to plot biomedical data.

The COVIDmapper is available online and all data collected has been made available to download for free.