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We evaluated the usefulness and accuracy of media-reported data for active disaster-related mortality surveillance.
From October 29 through November 5, 2012, epidemiologists from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) tracked online media reports for Hurricane Sandy–related deaths by use of a keyword search. To evaluate the media-reported data, vital statistics records of Sandy-related deaths were compared to corresponding media-reported deaths and assessed for percentage match. Sensitivity, positive predictive value (PPV), and timeliness of the media reports for detecting Sandy-related deaths were calculated.
Ninety-nine media-reported deaths were identified and compared with the 90 vital statistics death records sent to the CDC by New York City (NYC) and the 5 states that agreed to participate in this study. Seventy-five (76%) of the media reports matched with vital statistics records. Only NYC was able to actively track Sandy-related deaths during the event. Moderate sensitivity (83%) and PPV (83%) were calculated for the matching media-reported deaths for NYC.
During Hurricane Sandy, the media-reported information was moderately sensitive, and percentage match with vital statistics records was also moderate. The results indicate that online media-reported deaths can be useful as a supplemental source of information for situational awareness and immediate public health decision-making during the initial response stage of a disaster. (Disaster Med Public Health Preparedness. 2017;11:460–466)
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