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PHR Article of the Week: Challenges to Implementing Communicable Disease Surveillance in New York City Evacuation Shelters after Hurricane Sandy, November 2012

In the latest issue of Public Health Reports, January/February 2015, CDC EIS Officer Dr. Alison D. Ridpath, and New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene staff Ms. Brooke Bregman, Dr. Lucretia Jones, Ms. Vasudha Reddy, Ms. HaeNa Waechter, and Dr. Sharon Balter present a case study on results and lessons learned during and after the Hurricane Sandy disaster response which can be useful for planning future responses to natural disasters or other public health emergencies.


Hurricane Sandy hit New York City (NYC) on October 29, 2012. Before and after the storm, 73 temporary evacuation shelters were established. The total census of these shelters peaked at approximately 6,800 individuals. Concern about the spread of communicable diseases in shelters prompted the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) to rapidly develop a surveillance system to report communicable diseases and emergency department transports from shelters. The authors describe the implementation of this system. Establishing effective surveillance in temporary shelters was challenging and required in-person visits by DOHMH staff to ensure reporting. After system establishment, surveillance data were used to identify some potential disease clusters. For the future, they recommend pre-event planning for disease surveillance.
This week’s PHR feature article, Challenges to Implementing Communicable Disease Surveillance in New York City Evacuation Shelters After Hurricane Sandy, November 2012, will be open access through February 20th.

The official journal of the U.S. Public Health Service and the U.S. Surgeon General since 1878, PHR serves as an informative and accessible resource for practitioners, professors, scholars, and students of public health. Published in collaboration with the Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health (ASPPH), the bi-monthly, peer-reviewed journal provides important research and presents key discussions on the major issues confronting the public health community. For full access to current content, visit the Public Health Reports website to subscribe.