Creation of a Kansas Spring Extreme Weather Syndrome Definition and Unique Records

How to Cite

Stein, Z. M. (2017). Creation of a Kansas Spring Extreme Weather Syndrome Definition and Unique Records. Online Journal of Public Health Informatics, 9(1).


ObjectiveTo evaluate syndrome definitions capturing storm- and extremeweather-related emergency department visits in Kansas hospitalsparticipating in the National Syndromic Surveillance Program(NSSP).IntroductionKansas storms can occur without warning and have potential tocause a multitude of health issues. Extreme weather preparednessand event monitoring for public health effects is being developedas a function of syndromic surveillance at the Kansas Departmentof Health and Environment (KDHE). The Syndromic SurveillanceProgram at KDHE utilized emergency department (ED) data to detectdirect health effects of the weather events in the first 9 months of2016. Current results show injuries directly related to the storms andalso some unexpected health effects that warrant further exploration.MethodsA basic syndrome definition was defined based on extreme springand summer weather events experienced in Kansas. This broaddefinition pulled records from Kansas EDs that included the followingin the Chief Complaint or Triage Notes fields:●Storm●Rain●Torna(dos)●Wind●FloodThis broad syndrome definition was performed on data submittedto the Kansas’s production server through NSSP between January 1stand August 30th, 2016. After the initial pull, duplicate records for thesame patient and visit were removed.The remaining set was then searched by hand to identify termscaught by the syndrome definition that were not related to stormactivity or extreme weather. Record chief complaints were thenscanned by hand to identify common words containing the searchcriteria and then removed. Keywords not of interest to the syndromedefinition that were caught were: migraine, window, drain, restrain,train, and many other proper nouns that contained one of the keywords.These remaining visits were then sorted by nature of visit andunexpected records were recorded for future direction of syndromedefinition development.ResultsThe initial data pull under these conditions yielded 17,691 uniqueemergency department visits from January 1stto August 30thduringthe 2016 year. From this, records were classified based on key wordsresulting in the pull. The table below shows the initial pull results, theremaining records after errant results were expunged, the percentageof visits that were removed, and the most common reason for removal.Of these records remaining after cleaning, 20 were related tostorms, 62 were related to rain, 7 were related to tornado activity,66 were related to wind, and 14 were related to flooding along withthe mixed variable instances shown in the table. A majority of thewind-related ED visits were injuries and the majority of the tornadoactivity events were related to injuries sustained while taking shelter.Many of the injuries mentioning storms were sustained in preparationfor the storm, and a handful were due to mental stresses regardingstorm activity.ConclusionsSyndrome definition development is an iterative process thatwill vary by region. By manually looking at line-level data details,future searches can better accommodate these errant results and falsepositives. These studies will facilitate more rapid extreme weatherresponse in Kansas and allow better situational awareness. Alongwith general storm-related injuries, knowledge of the unusual recordscaught by a syndrome definition can also help direct public educationin preparation of future storms. With injuries sustained while takingshelter and injuries sustained in preparation for the storm, we can takethese unique ED visits and work on interventions to prevent futureoccurrences.
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