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Using syndromic surveillance to monitor response to cyanotoxin contamination event


Cyanotoxins are unregulated, emerging contaminants that have been associated with adverse health effects, including gastroenteritis, when consumed at high levels1,2. In May and June of 2018 cyanotoxins were detected in the public drinking water system for Salem, OR at levels above Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) health advisory levels for sensitive groups3. Sensitive groups were defined as children under 6, elderly adults, pregnant women, nursing mothers, people with compromised immune systems, people receiving dialysis, people with pre-existing liver conditions, and pets. Several health advisories were issued, and there was substantial media coverage of the event. The Oregon Health Authority (OHA) organized an Incident Management Team (IMT), which coordinated activities with other state and local agencies. Oregon ESSENCE staff used syndromic surveillance to monitor the population for health effects and healthcare seeking behavior.

Objective: Examine healthcare seeking behavior in a population exposed to low levels of cyanotoxins in the public drinking water supply and quantify how publicity of the event may have affected perceptions of risk in the affected population.

Submitted by elamb on