New real-time tool for early detection of COVID-19 cases
Helps avert future widespread disease outbreaks
WINDSOR, ON, July 26, 2021 - A real-time interactive dashboard has been launched that combines local wastewater surveillance testing with University of Windsor saliva-based screening to monitor the presence of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. The tool compares the levels of SARS-CoV-2 in wastewater to active or new COVID-19 cases in Windsor-Essex to detect outbreaks. 

The WE-SPARK COVID-19 Dashboard reflects a pipeline of information pulled together from several local Windsor-Essex wastewater treatment plants about the presence of infectious disease in the community through wastewater. Additional tools are being developed to detect the prevalence of other variants of concern, currently, the percentage of the Alpha variant (B.1.1.7) detected in wastewater can be viewed on the second page of the dashboard. Random community screening and saliva swabbing are then conducted to detect their presence in the population. These are also compared with current clinical cases in the Windsor-Essex community. 

“The dashboard, combined with the wastewater and saliva screening, provides a surveillance platform to support the safe re-opening of Windsor-Essex,” said Dr. Lisa Porter, Executive Director of the WE-SPARK Health Institute.  

University of Windsor Assistant Professor, Dr. Pooya Moradian Zadeh and his computer science Master’s students Farzaneh Jouyandeh and Sarvnaz Sadeghi created the dashboard. They received input from a multi-disciplinary team of Biologists (Dr. Lisa Porter and Jackie Fong), Biochemist, Dr. Yufeng Tong, Epidemiologist, Mathew Roy, and Environmental Microbiologists under the direction of Dr. Mike McKay from the Great Lakes Institute of Environmental Research (GLIER). The City of Windsor, Town of Amherstburg and Municipalities of Lakeshore and Leamington are integral to the project providing weekly wastewater samples.

The project is funded as part of the Ontario Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks Wastewater Surveillance Initiative with oversight and support from the WE-SPARK Health Institute.

Dr. Porter continues: “We are thankful to the University of Windsor and the WE-SPARK Health Institute for the vision and investment in this kind of protective framework for our community. We are also very thankful to our multi-disciplinary team for their dedication and expertise and to our municipalities for their participation.”

“At WE-SPARK, we are making it a priority to make health research open, accessible and understandable for our Windsor-Essex public,” concludes Dr. Porter. “Members of the community are invited to see the direct relationship between case numbers and COVID-19 in our wastewater. The dashboard also identifies the number of outbreaks by location, making this information invaluable for our healthcare leaders and decision-makers. The platform can also be extended to other infectious diseases such as the seasonal flu. If we have learned anything through the COVID-19 pandemic, it is the importance of having this kind of surveillance that can be rapidly deployed to isolate affected populations and avoid widespread outbreaks that can devastate our community.” 

The WE-SPARK COVID-19 Dashboard is updated daily at 8:30 AM and 2:00 PM and can be viewed by visiting:

Media Contact:

Cathy Mombourquette
WE-SPARK Health Institute
About WE-SPARK Health Institute
WE-SPARK Health Institute is a research partnership between Hôtel-Dieu Grace Healthcare, St. Clair College, Windsor Regional Hospital and the University of Windsor that brings together health research strengths, expertise, and infrastructure from across the Windsor-Essex region. Its mission is to enhance the health, well-being and care of people through transformative research and knowledge translation.