So far, the previously released infectious disease forecast has held. These are the current observations over the last 24 hrs of relevance to infectious disease transmission potential:
- Ongoing problem of elderly and other inhabitants who either chose not to evacuate or were unable to evacuate residing in areas without power, ready access to safe drinking water, food, medications, or medical attendings. For Rockaway, this has been mitigated by the tremendous influx of volunteers, medical personnel, and officials over the weekend.
- The disposition of generators has been a contentious issue, as there does not appear to be enough to go around.
- Food spoilage has been an issue, which is not unexpected and has been reported previously. The concern is consumption of contaminated or spoiled food which can lead to vomiting and diarrhea. Again, in isolated elderly who may already be dehydrated, this is an issue.
- Victims have been observed to use fire hydrants for their water supply. It is unclear how safe this water is to drink, for instance, on Rockaway.
- We have had reports of bronchitis and bacterial pneumonia from one family medicine physician who has a clinic in New Jersey- an area NOT effected by Sandy. Nevertheless, this provides us with information that these are issues that are being seen. None of the patients that were seen at this clinic required hospitalization. We suspect these were actually VIRAL, not bacterial, based on the clinical description. No influenza positives in these patients.
- We really have NOT seen much reporting of vomiting and diarrhea. We HAVE seen two previously reported outbreaks of what looked like viral diarrhea thus far- either food contamination or infection- which was self-limited and required minimal medical intervention.
- An outbreak of diarrheal illness in abandoned elderly can mean death… that, in addition to all the other factors that may result in mortality such as using portable gas stoves indoors for cooking or heating; lack of access to power, food, water, meds, and medical care; lack of heating; etc. Obviously, hypothermia and asphyxiation has been a much bigger issue right now than infectious disease.
Up to this point, our team focused predominantly on operational support to several large volunteer response groups such as Rockaway Relief.