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Hurricane Maria caused catastrophic damage in Puerto Rico, increasing the risk for morbidity and mortality in the post-impact period. We aimed to establish a syndromic surveillance system to describe the number and type of visits at 2 emergency health-care settings in the same hospital system in Ponce, Puerto Rico.
We implemented a hurricane surveillance system by interviewing patients with a short questionnaire about the reason for visit at a hospital emergency department and associated urgent care clinic in the 6 mo after Hurricane Maria. We then evaluated the system by comparing findings with data from the electronic medical record (EMR) system for the same time period.
The hurricane surveillance system captured information from 5116 participants across the 2 sites, representing 17% of all visits captured in the EMR for the same period. Most visits were associated with acute illness/symptoms (79%), followed by injury (11%). The hurricane surveillance and EMR data were similar, proportionally, by sex, age, and visit category.
The hurricane surveillance system provided timely and representative data about the number and type of visits at 2 sites. This system, or an adapted version using available electronic data, should be considered in future disaster settings.
The aim of this study was to describe individuals seeking care for injury at a major emergency department (ED) in southern Puerto Rico in the months after Hurricane Maria on September 20, 2017.
After informed consent, we used a modified version of the Natural Disaster Morbidity Surveillance Form to determine why patients were visiting the ED during October 16, 2017–March 28, 2018. We analyzed visits where injury was reported as the primary reason for visit and whether it was hurricane-related.
Among 5 116 patients, 573 (11%) reported injury as the primary reason for a visit. Of these, 10% were hurricane-related visits. The most common types of injuries were abrasions, lacerations, and cuts (43% of all injury visits and 50% of hurricane-related visits). The most common mechanisms of injury were falls, slips, trips (268, 47%), and being hit by/or against an object (88, 15%). Most injury visits occurred during the first 3 months after the hurricane.
Surveillance after Hurricane Maria identified injury as the reason for a visit for about 1 in 10 patients visiting the ED, providing evidence on the patterns of injuries in the months following a hurricane. Public health and emergency providers can use this information to anticipate health care needs after a disaster.
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