Hurricane Matthew’s Potential Impact on the Spread of Zika

October 19th, 2016

Author: Sid Baccam, Compuutational Epidemiologist, IEM

In the wake of Hurricane Matthew, there have been concerns regarding how the storm might affect the spread of vector-borne diseases including Zika. Although local transmission of Zika virus has only been confirmed in Florida, coastal areas up through the Carolinas could experience increased human exposure to mosquitoes as they recover from Hurricane Matthew.

An article published by Adrienne Lafrance in The Atlantic looked at this topic. Lafrance cites research conducted at Tulane University that examined the incidence of West Nile disease in areas affected by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Researchers found that the number of people with neurologic disease associated with West Nile Virus had increased sharply in the three weeks following Hurricane Katrina.hurricane-matthew-fl-zika Read the rest of this entry »

Using GIS Technology to Support More Rapid Damage Assessments

October 12th, 2016

Author: Jim Weldin, Senior Emergency Planner, IEM

In the aftermath of a disaster, such as last week’s Hurricane Matthew, one of the crucial tasks of an Emergency Operations Center (EOC) is to determine the extent of impact to the community. This article will discuss the increasing use of Geographic Information Systems as a valuable tool in this process. By modifying and sharing information with the public, both residents and businesses can self-report their damage assessments to EOCs, which helps to develop more immediate situational awareness of the disaster impact.  Read the rest of this entry »

Zika: Protecting Yourself Protects Those around You

October 7th, 2016

Author: Camille Hesterberg, Communications Specialist, IEM

By now, you have probably heard Zika being described as a public health crisis. Zika does not have a direct impact on most people, and it is not life-threatening like some other mosquito-borne illnesses.[1] Therefore, it is challenging for the general population to feel connected to the issue and to be concerned about Zika’s spread. Understanding what makes Zika a public health issue will help people appreciate how their individual actions can help contain the spread of Zika.

Although Zika may not feel personal to you now, the more it spreads, the more likely it is that you will feel its impact. You may become infected and feel unwell as a result; someone you know may become pregnant, and her child may be born with congenital Zika syndrome (term for microcephaly and other Zika-related birth defects)[2]; or, with the price of recovering after a Zika outbreak being more costly than preventative measures that stop the spread of Zika, you may feel the social and economic burdens of this disease for years to come. Read the rest of this entry »

All Mosquitoes are Not the Same When it Comes to Zika

September 23rd, 2016

Author: Sid Baccam, Compuutational Epidemiologist, IEM

By now, we all know that Zika virus can be spread to humans through pesky mosquito bites. But why should we care only about specific mosquitoes? Aren’t all mosquitoes the same? Actually, there are more than 3,500 species of mosquitoes, 175 of which are found in the United States, and each one is different. The most commonly found species in the U.S. include the Anopheles quadrmaculatus, Culex pipiens, Aedes aegypti, and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes. Read the rest of this entry »

Zika and the Brain: A Public Health Game Changer

September 16th, 2016

Author: Dr. Rashid Chotani, Senior Scientist, IEM

Human infection with Zika virus (ZIKV) was initially reported to be mild and non-life threatening. However, as ZIKV has been introduced into unexposed and highly dense populations, it has evolved. We know now that when the virus attacks the brain of an unborn child, the effects can be devastating.

ZIKV can be passed from mother to fetus (in-utero) during pregnancy, which can result in microcephaly, a very serious condition resulting in life-long disabilities, and other birth defects. Today, I want to discuss ZIKV-related microcephaly and show how the number of U.S. birth defects due to possible Zika infection has alarmingly increased, leading to a serious public health concern in the U.S. and its territories.

Read the rest of this entry »

Recent Canonization of Mother Teresa Brings Memories, Realizations for IEM CEO

September 6th, 2016

Author: Madhu Beriwal, President/CEO of IEM

When she learned that Mother Teresa had been declared a saint, IEM CEO Madhu Beriwal was taken back to memories from her childhood, which brought home a powerful realization of the impact that Mother Teresa has had on her life. What follows are Madhu’s reflections after hearing this news on September 4, 2016. 

Mother-Theresa-wikipedia.orgI met Mother Teresa in the 1960s. She was famous in Calcutta (now Kolkata) and well-known in India, but word of her ministry had not yet traversed around the world. When I say “met,” it is both saying too much and too little. The all-girls school I attended in Calcutta (sorry, old habits die hard) raised money for her charity and she came to collect it.

Truthfully, we enjoyed raising the money. The school held a fete, a fair, with games, crafts, and food. Parents and siblings attended. A good time was had by all. It seemed almost incidental that the money raised would be given to Mother Teresa.

So, she came. Several hundred girls stood at attention in the Assembly Hall. As was usual, they fidgeted and moved, their regulation shoes creating a high rustling sound. Starched white uniforms moved stiffly, adding their own sound to the low cacophony. Read the rest of this entry »

Is Zika Here to Stay?

August 22nd, 2016

Author: Rashid Chotani, Senior Scientist, IEM

With Zika virus making its presence known in the United States and local transmission occurring in Florida, there is a growing concern about the risk of Zika. But we have to ask the question: WHY is it spreading so rapidly, and why now? Once Zika virus was identified in Brazil, with knowledge from previous outbreaks, it was obvious that the disease would spread across the Americas and was here to stay. The BIG question was when it would emerge as a locally-transmitted disease in the U.S. Read the rest of this entry »

How the Olympics Will Affect the Risks of Zika

August 19th, 2016

Author: Dr. Rashid Chotani, Senior Scientist, IEM

IEM’s Dr. Rashid Chotani discusses the Zika virus outbreak and the risks the Olympics in Rio pose to the spread of the disease. Dr. Chotani predicted that the disease would surface in Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas. Local mosquito-borne Zika virus transmission has been reported in Wynwood, a neighborhood in Miami, FL. A Texas resident who recently traveled to an area of Miami known as a “hot spot” for local Zika transmission tested positive for the virus, the Texas.

video-thumbnail-valuesHow the Olympics Will Effect Zika Outbreak (7:10)

This was filmed at the International Center for Terrorism Studies at The Potomac Institute for Policy Studies Seminar, June 23, 2016.

The Challenge of Developing Situational Awareness During Hurricane Disasters—Part Three: Understanding the Impact (or the “What’s Next?”)

June 21st, 2016

Author: Jim Weldin, Senior Emergency Planner, IEM

This is Part 3 of a three-part series on hurricane analysis. Part 1, “Determining the What,” dealt with anticipating the impact of a tropical system and Part 2, “Consequences (Or the ‘So What?’)” focused on consequence management. 

Hurricane Sandy made landfall near Atlantic City on October 29, 2012, at approximately 8 p.m. The 933-kilometer-wide storm produced 158 kph winds as it moved northwest toward the New Jersey coast as a Category 1 hurricane. A new state record was set for the lowest recorded barometric pressure (an indicator of storm strength), which was measured at 27.94 inches at landfall.

Hurricane Sandy’s impacts on New Jersey included high winds with hurricane-force gusts, storm surge, and significant rainfall. Surge heights were considered major to record-level—i.e., in the 6- to 9-foot range—along the coast, resulting in major inundation of coastal areas and flooding of barrier islands. Rainfall levels totaled up to 7 inches for most locations in New Jersey. Read the rest of this entry »

The Challenge of Developing Situational Awareness During Hurricane Disasters—Part Two: Consequences (Or the “So What?”)

June 13th, 2016

Author: Jim Weldin, Senior Emergency Planner, IEM

This is Part 2 of a three-part series on hurricane analysis. Part 1, “Determining the What,” dealt with anticipating the impact of a tropical system. We discussed various tools and projections used by the New Jersey Office of Emergency Management to predict the potential impact of a tropical system. This post focuses on consequence management.

Historical data on the impact of past storms was useful in projecting potential consequences in New Jersey from Hurricane Sandy. In addition, FEMA, through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), provided maps of flood-prone areas and historical data on property flooding insurance claims as part of its mission to reduce the impact of flooding on private and public structures. GIS mapping helped emergency managers define facilities most at risk, including key residences and businesses; hospitals and schools; and critical infrastructure, such as power plants, water/wastewater treatment facilities, and police, fire, and emergency medical service (EMS) stations. Read the rest of this entry »