Heat-Related Illness, Animal-Related Injuries, and Toxic Algae Blooms: It Must Be Summer

Summer brings with it the many joys of enjoying the great outdoors, from picnicking and swimming to sporting events and outdoor performances and entertainment events. It also brings to the spotlight a familiar set of public health concerns. Thankfully, EpiCenter comes with tools designed to help monitor and analyze some of the common ones, in addition to unforeseen issues like Ohio’s recent run-in with water toxicity.  Here’s how:

Heat-Related Illness

EpiCenter’s Heat-related Illness (HRI) classifier tracks ED registrations related to heat exhaustion and heat stroke by looking for symptoms like headache, lack of appetite, sluggishness, and dizziness. Using a strategy similar to what we saw during last winter’s polar vortex, viewing ED data related to HRI during heat waves can be critical to assessing whether public service announcement campaigns have been useful in reducing the number of HRI ED visits, which can in turn be leveraged to acquire funding for both future campaigns and preparedness efforts in advance of very hot weather.

Animal-Related Injuries

According to the CDC, about 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year, with most bites affecting children. Dogs aren’t the only animals biting; each year an estimated 40,000 people in the US receive shots due to potential exposure to rabies, and worldwide, rabies results in more than 55,000 deaths annually. In many states, healthcare facilities are required by law to report animal-related injuries. EpiCenter’s Animal-Related Injury classification includes classifiers like “animal attack,” “animal bite,” “animal scratch,” “misc. animal injury,” and “rabies.” EpiCenter’s Maps feature makes it simple to view this data geographically, enabling public health to initiated highly targeted educational campaigns geared toward prevention of animal-related injuries during the summer.

Water Toxicity

As officials discovered above-normal levels of microcystins in Toledo’s water supply, EpiCenter was already sending anomaly notifications alerting public health officials to unusually high numbers of ED registrations related to gastrointestinal issues in Toledo and the surrounding areas. Public Health officials were able to group all related anomalies into one investigation and track the numbers of water-related ED visits both before and following the drinking ban. Public health officials were also quick to create their own custom classifier to track ED visits that specifically cited water exposure in the chief complaint. Having the ability to quickly view and analyze this data in EpiCenter allowed Ohio’s public health officials to respond to the issue as thoroughly and efficiently as possible, and will aid in future preparedness efforts.