Objective: Our objective was to characterize nonfatal injuries, by age groups, that were seen in emergency departments (EDs) in 29 selected counties in Eastern North Carolina following Hurricane Irene.
Methods: A descriptive evaluation using data from the North Carolina Disease Event Tracking and Epidemiologic Collection Tool (NC DETECT) was performed to identify the numbers and types of nonfatal injuries among individuals who sought treatment at hospital EDs. Percentages of reported ED visits related to external injuries in the 7 most severely impacted counties were compared with results in the entire 29-county region and with data from a reference period in 2010.
Results: The total number of individuals who sought treatment at an ED for an external cause of injury was 22.3% greater during the week following Hurricane Irene than during the 2010 reference week. In the 29-county region, the increases were primarily due to falls; in the 7-county region, they were primarily due to cutting and piercing incidents. Following the storm, injuries related to falls, adverse effects of health care, or being struck by an object accounted for higher proportions of injury-related ED visits in the 7-county disaster region than in the 29-county region.
Limitations: The inability to identify the patient's home address and the county where treatment was sought was a spatial limitation. Furthermore, data for urgent care visits, primary care doctor visits, and injuries treated at home were not included. Additionally, cautious inference should be made to distinguish between injuries that occurred as a direct result of the storm and those that occurred incidentally.
Conclusion: Data from NC DETECT can be used to estimate the most common types of injuries seen in EDs following a natural disaster.