In the wake of Hurricane Sandy and the winter storm which struck Wednesday and Thursday, Direct Relief continues to monitor possible infectious disease trends in addition to our elevated attention to chronic illness.
Operational Biosurveillance, which Direct Relief helps to fund for their work specific to Haiti, has released an epidemiological forecast, or prediction of the likelihood for imminent spread of infectious disease, for the New York and New Jersey areas specific to the period following Hurrricane Sandy. The group also produced a report containing a detailed assessment in the Rockaway area, one of the hardest hit by the storm.
They have been able to confirm an outbreak of norovirus – which causes inflammation of the stomach and intestines and can be very serious for young children and older adults – at shelters in Brooklyn and among a national guard unit in Jersey City. However, there is no sense as of now that the current outbreak is evidence of a peak above normal trends.
Their primary concern remains with spread of influenza due to cold, moisture and crowding in emergency shelters. This is not, however, considered to be of abnormally elevated risk with the exception of the timing of this event early in the vaccination season prior to high levels of community coverage being achieved.
Direct Relief is tracking the possible elevated influenza risk using Google flu trends and HealthMap data using Palantir’s data analysis technology and will report any significant findings. As of now, there is not a significant increase in infectious disease risk due to the storms.