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Adapting a syndromic biosurveillance system to monitor veterans’ health impact associated with the gulf coast oil spill


On 20 April 2010, an explosion on an offshore drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico led to a prolonged uncontrolled release of crude oil. Both clean-up workers and coastal residents were potentially at high risk for respiratory and other acute health effects from exposure to crude oil and its derivatives, yet there was no surveillance system available to monitor these health effects. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) conducts routine surveillance for biological threats using the Electronic Surveillance System for Early Notification of Community Based Epidemics (ESSENCE). ESSENCE captures specific patient care visit ICD-nine codes belonging to selected conditions that could represent a biological threat. VA operates 153 medical centers and over 1000 free standing patient care facilities across the United States. We describe the adaptation of ESSENCE to allow surveillance of health conditions potentially related to the oil spill.



To describe a surveillance system created to identify acute health issues potentially associated with the Deepwater Horizon oil spill among Veterans in the Gulf of Mexico coastal region.

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