Flu Season off to Early and Strong Start

Each week, the CDC publishes an influenza summary update and as public health professionals already know, this year’s flu season has started strong and early. This year’s flu season got the earliest start since the “moderately severe” season of 2003, according to WebMD Health News.

So far, flu-like illnesses have been reported as “widespread” in Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Texas. And WebMD’s cold and flu map is showing additional “severe” flu activity in Georgia, South Carolina, and South Dakota.

EpiCenter’s data is showing a similar uptick in national flu-related ER visits. From October through mid-December, fever-related ER visits have increased nearly threefold—while respiratory-related ER visits have slightly increased.

The CDC estimates that 112 million Americans have already received flu shots this season—meaning 37% of the eligible population endured the needle or nasal spray. HMS will keep tabs on the flu data that EpiCenter collects and continue to post updates to provide public health professionals with additional information on this year’s flu season.


Modular Certification Helps Hospitals Achieve MU Compliance

HMS is currently working toward receiving Modular Certification (Public Health Surveillance) for its Mergence platform.  The key to this certification is the utilization of HMS’ Mergence data integration engine. Mergence is a service provided to a medical facility—and has been fine-tuned by HMS to meet client needs.


This will assist hospitals in achieving Meaningful Use Compliance—without requiring facilities to change their current EpiCenter data feeds. Data from Mergence is sent in certified, secure format to HMS’ EpiCenter system.

Read more

Lessons Learned from Superstorm Sandy

It’s not often that storms as large as Sandy impact our county—and the effects that it had on public health are still being calculated.


HMS reviewed data related to the storm and observed the following data trends in New Jersey:


Total emergency room registrations were notably reduced statewide on October 29th, the day that the storm made landfall.  The following day, registrations either returned to normal levels or showed an overall increase.


In the week following the storm, emergency room registrations among those 65 and older increased as a percentage of total registrations—from a typical level of 20% to nearly 25%. Conversely, registrations among those ages 12-18 were down proportionately.

Read more

Social Media to Impact Community Health Surveillance?

A recent article on Nextgov states that The Department of Homeland Security has hired Accenture to “test technology that mines open social networks for indications of pandemics.”

The biosurveillance program, slated to last one year, will attempt to identify public health trends by examining information that people share online. The total price tag is $3 million. It’s a product of the national strategy for biosurveillance, created by the Obama Administration. According to Nextgov, the guidelines request that federal agencies try new techniques to mine data that could impact public health.

Read more