Disaster-related mortality in Texas, May-June 2015
Methods: We conducted active surveillance for disaster-related deaths that occurred from 5/4/2015-6/19/2015 using online media reports and death certificate data. Using data abstracted from both sources, we calculated descriptive statistics on demographics, circumstances of death, and likelihood of disaster-relatedness.
Results: A total of 62 deaths possibly-related to severe weather were identified via media reports and death certificates. The majority of decedents were males (N=38, 61.3%); the mean age was 46.5 years (range=3-87 years). External causes of death were predominantly drownings (N=46, 74.2%), many caused by driving or recreating in flooded areas. Other decedents were struck by tornadoes or involved in motor vehicle crashes caused by hazardous conditions. Fatalities occurred in 35 Texas counties; counties with the greatest numbers of decedents included Harris (N=8) and Hays (N=7). Deaths occurred between 5/7/2015-6/18/2015; over two-thirds (N=43, 69.4%) occurred during a nine day period (5/23/2015-5/31/2015).
Conclusions: Conducting mortality surveillance on disasters that impact a large geographic area over a lengthy period of time is challenging. Data collected highlight the need for strengthened messaging on flash flood and tornado preparedness. Advancements in disaster-related mortality surveillance are necessary to improve the timeliness and quality of death data.
Describe an outbreak of injury deaths in Texas during May-June 2015 due to several natural disasters. Explain how outcomes of the severe weather were similar to those seen in other natural disasters, particularly for flash flooding and tornadoes. Highlight challenges encountered in conducting mortality surveillance for sustained severe weather events.
Keyword(s): Disasters, Public Health Research
Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I was the injury data analyst on a grant-funded project focused on describing Hurricane Sandy-related morbidity and mortality. I am familiar with the disaster epidemiology literature and have conducted active mortality surveillance for multiple disasters.
Any relevant financial relationships? No
I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.