Public Health Provider Alert from BCHHS: Advice for Health Care Providers Treating Patients in or Recently Returned from Hurricane-Affected Areas, Including Puerto Rico and US Virgin Islands

October 25, 2017

CDC issued the attached Health Advisory on 10/24/17 to remind clinicians assessing patients currently in or recently returned from hurricane-affected areas to be vigilant in looking for certain infectious diseases, including leptospirosis, dengue, hepatitis A, typhoid fever, vibriosis, and influenza. Post-hurricane environmental conditions that pose an increased risk for the spread of infectious diseases may last through March 2018, based on current predictions of full restoration of power and safe water systems in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.

Recommendations:
These recommendations apply to healthcare providers treating patients in Puerto Rico and USVI, as well as those treating patients in the continental US who recently traveled in hurricane-affected areas (e.g., within the past 4 weeks), during the period of September 2017 – March 2018.

  • Health care providers and public health practitioners in hurricane-affected areas should look for community and healthcare-associated infectious diseases.  
  • Health care providers in the continental US are encouraged to ask patients about recent travel (e.g., within the past 4 weeks) to hurricane-affected areas.
  • All healthcare providers should consider less common infectious disease etiologies in patients presenting with evidence of acute respiratory illness, gastroenteritis, renal or hepatic failure, wound infection, or other febrile illness. Some particularly important infectious diseases to consider include leptospirosis, dengue, hepatitis A, typhoid fever, vibriosis, and influenza.
  • In the context of limited laboratory resources in hurricane-affected areas, health care providers should contact their territorial or state health department if they need assistance with ordering specific diagnostic tests.
  • For certain conditions, such as leptospirosis, empiric therapy should be considered pending results of diagnostic tests— treatment for leptospirosis is most effective when initiated early in the disease process. Providers can contact their territorial or state health department or CDC for consultation.
  • Local health care providers are strongly encouraged to report patients for whom there is a high level of suspicion for leptospirosis, dengue, hepatitis A, typhoid, and vibriosis to their local health authorities, while awaiting laboratory confirmation.
  • Confirmed cases of leptospirosis, dengue, hepatitis A, typhoid fever, and vibriosis should be immediately reported to the territorial or state health department to facilitate public health investigation and, as appropriate, mitigate the risk of local transmission. While some of these conditions are not listed as reportable conditions in all states, they are conditions of public health importance and should be reported.

Some resources you may find helpful or informative:

If you have any questions or concerns related to this information, or you need to report a suspected or confirmed communicable disease, please contact the BCHHS Communicable Disease staff at 828-250-5109 (available 24/7).

Thank you.
Jennifer Mullendore, MD, MSPH
Medical Director
Buncombe County Health and Human Services

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