The Office of Public Health implemented emergency surveillance for diseases of public health importance in area emergency departments two days before Hurricane Katrina. Shelter-based surveillance was put into place in coordination with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the US Public Health Service (PHS). There have not been large outbreaks of other diarrheal diseases or of acute respiratory infection detected by either surveillance system.
There have been only three confirmed cases of norovirus since the hurricane emergency began; two were in persons residing at one shelter and the third was in a resident of a second shelter. The Assistant State Epidemiologist attributed the lack of large clusters of diarrhea or ARI to the American Red Cross’ efforts at infection control in shelters. The Assistant State Epidemiologist noted that it would be important to know the types of infection control measures put into place in shelters not run by the American Red Cross.
“Boil water” orders remain in place for many parishes in the state. The Assistant State Epidemiologist mentioned that additional attention should be paid to the western parishes affected by Hurricane Rita. These include Lafayette, Jefferson Davis, Cameron, and Vermilion Parishes.
Submitted by Pavani Ram and James Jensen
October 18, 2005