UPDATE: This information is current as of June 9, 2010, 6:00 PM ET
CDC has reviewed the results of EPA’s sampling efforts in response to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. In our review, CDC has used information on the health effects associated with the chemicals detected in the EPA’s samples. CDC’s review is designed to determine whether these pollutants in your community may cause health problems.
The Gulf Coast Oil Spill has the potential to affect human health in addition to the effects already seen on animal and marine life. CDC, along with the affected Gulf Coast states, has developed a plan to track the potential short-term health effects related to the oil spill in the affected communities. Surveillance systems track changes in the number and severity of illnesses and injuries in a population, alerting public health officials to trends that require further investigation.
CDC, with state and local health departments, is conducting surveillance across the five Gulf States for health effects possibly related to the oil spill using national and state-based surveillance systems. These surveillance systems are being used to track symptoms related to the eyes, skin, and respiratory, cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, and neurological systems, including worsening of asthma, cough, chest pain, eye irritation, nausea, and headache. If the surveillance systems identify groups of people with these symptoms, state and local public health officials will be able to follow-up as needed to investigate whether there is an association between the symptoms and the oil spill. This follow-up is important because the same symptoms could be related to a different cause.
National Poison Data System (NPDS)
CDC has an agreement with the American Association of Poison Control Center’s NPDS to track calls related to the oil spill—including information calls and potential exposures—for 60 Poison Centers (PCs) in all 50 states. This enables CDC to track the number of Poison Center calls and potential health effects. The data are also being provided to the states so that they can follow up as needed.
Findings (April 30 – May 26)
As of May 27, 2010, the 60 Poison Centers had reported receiving 93 calls related to the oil spill, mostly from callers in Louisiana and Mississippi. Of the 93 callers, 34 reported that they had been exposed to oil. These callers reported a range of symptoms including cough, nausea, headache, eye irritation, throat irritation, chest pain, dizziness, shortness of breath, and skin redness.
BioSense is a national program that conducts quick surveillance of health information, and enables public health officials to track changes in a population’s health status through access to existing data from healthcare organizations across the country. Biosense includes 86 coastal healthcare facilities in the five Gulf states (Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas) and staff are watching for specific syndromes (groupings of signs and symptoms) that could be related to the oil spill.
Findings (May 3 – May 26)
Biosense detected an increase in the number of visits for skin rash in a healthcare facility in Florida on May 17. Further investigation of this cluster indicated that the rashes were unrelated to the oil spill.
Biosense also detected an increase in the number of visits for asthma in a healthcare facility in Mississippi on May 21. The public health investigation of this increase is ongoing; early information does not seem linked to the oil spill.
Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, and Mississippi are using state-based surveillance systems to track oil spill-related health effects that might be related to occupational or non-occupational exposure. The states and CDC are collecting data from sources such as emergency departments, urgent care facilities, and poison centers for evaluation. States and CDC are regularly sharing data and summaries with each other. As of May 28, 2010, states had reported a few complaints of respiratory symptoms, nausea, and headache in people who had possible oil exposures. Surveillance reveals no trends of public health concern related to the oil spill.
To learn more about each state’s system and findings, click on the state map below.
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