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Evaluating the Ability of a Syndromic Surveillance System to Detect Heat-Related Illnesses in Houston, TX, 2009-2012


Extreme heat events over the past 30 years have resulted in unprecedented increase in the numbers of heat-related morbidity and mortality across the world (1-3). During the same time frame, Houston residents has experienced three of the hottest summers on record since 1889, with 2011 being the hottest summer on record (4). Therefore, preparing for extreme heat events and monitoring their effects on public health is a vital role for the Houston Department of Health and Human Services (HDHHS). Since heat-related illnesses are not a reportable condition in the state of Texas, HDHHS authorities rely on other sources to provide information on the impact of heat on the population. HDHHS is currently able to monitor emergency departments (ED) visits across the Houston metropolitan area, Harris County, and the surrounding jurisdictions by using a syndromic surveillance system called Real-time Outbreak Disease Surveillance (RODS). The RODS system collects de-identified patient data that consists of their chief complaint and basic demographics (e.g. age, sex, zip code). This study is aimed at evaluating the ability of RODS to detect heat-related illnesses during heat event of the years 2009-2012 as well as identifying the areas of Houston that had the highest incidence of heat-related morbidity.


To evaluate the ability of a syndromic surveillance system to detect heat-related illnesses during a heat wave in Houston and to identify areas in Houston that requires additional resources to prevent heat-related illnesses.

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