Yesterday, the Ascel Bio National Infectious Disease Forecast Center activated its Intercept Ops Team to assist volunteers in Rockaway and Statten Island.
After a review of scant reports of diarrhea in Rockaway and media reports of "norovirus" (unknown what laboratory diagnostics were performed) affecting several shelters in Brooklyn and national guard troops at Jersey City, we assess at this time the forecast has been accurate up to this point. It is important to note that true peaking norovirus activity, especially among the elderly in nursing homes, is not expected until January. Norovirus circulates year-round and is capable of limited outbreaks at any time in the year. That said, there are a plethora of other pathogens capable of causing self-limited diarrhea including rotavirus and endemic coronavirus, for example.
The lingering, late impact effects observed in Rockaway, for example, compells us to make several adjustments to the original forecast:
- We assess there will be minimal medical infrastructure strain due specifically to infectious disease UNLESS mass groups of abandoned or sheltered-in-place elderly are not addressed by medical responders. We have received reports of elderly without power, access to safe drinking water, food, and medicine for 4+ days. There are reports of fatalities due to hypothermia as reported elsewhere. Sanitation has reportedly been compromised. This is an unhealthy, unsafe environment for vulnerable elderly who are at high risk for poor outcomes, including fatality, due to diarrhea disease. Reports from the ground indicate scattered cases of diarrhea, which is not unexpected. There remains opportunity to stay ahead of the problem and not compromise the lives of the elderly.
- Influenza remains a potential disruptor due to this being a drift year that required updating of the influenza vaccine. We have encountered significant opposition to influenza vaccination, representative of the anti-vaccination movement by local volunteer responders. We have worked to correct misconceptions about the safety of the vaccine, acknowledging it is not as effective in the elderly but yet might keep them out of the hospital.
The National Infectious Disease Forecast Center remains in tight communication and support of local volunteers who are fighting to keep their neighbors safe in a difficult time. Communications with local hospital medical staff have indicated a lack of awareness of field conditions, which is not uncommon given their focus on in-house patient care. We have seen much controversy and social outcry regarding local perception of national, state, and local response efficacy.