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Environmental Surveillance

CDC has reviewed the results of EPA’s sampling efforts in response to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. In our review, CDC has used information on the health effects associated with the chemicals detected in the EPA’s samples. CDC’s review is designed to determine whether these pollutants in your community may cause health problems.


Health Surveillance

UPDATE: This information is current as of August 10, 2010, 12:00 PM ET

The Gulf Coast Oil Spill has the potential to affect human health in addition to the effects already seen on animal and marine life. CDC, along with the affected Gulf Coast states, has developed a plan to track the potential short-term health effects related to the oil spill in the affected communities. Surveillance systems track changes in the number and severity of illnesses and injuries in a population, alerting public health officials to trends that require further investigation.

CDC, with state and local health departments, is conducting surveillance across the four Gulf States for health effects possibly related to the oil spill using national and state-based surveillance systems. These surveillance systems are being used to track symptoms related to the eyes, skin, and respiratory, cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, and neurological systems, including worsening of asthma, cough, chest pain, eye irritation, nausea, and headache. If the surveillance systems identify groups of people with these symptoms, state and local public health officials will be able to follow up as needed to investigate whether there is an association between the symptoms and the oil spill. This follow-up is important because the same symptoms could be related to a cause unrelated to the oil spill.

These surveillance systems are designed to look for health trends in different ways but all are designed to provide health authorities with signs of possible health impacts on the people and groups most likely to come into contact with the oil. For instance, one system tracks calls to Poison Control Centers related to the oil spill while another system looks at diagnoses at coastal hospitals. These different approaches to tracking health information may mean that some surveillance systems identify trends that other systems do not. By using multiple systems, CDC and the state and local health departments obtain a more comprehensive picture of the health of people who live and work on the Gulf Coast.

CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) is also tracking illnesses and injuries reported by Deepwater Horizon response workers in the NIOSH Report of BP Illness and Injury Data.

National Poison Data System (NPDS)

CDC has an agreement with the American Association of Poison Control Center’s NPDS to track calls related to the oil spill—including information calls and potential exposures—for 60 Poison Centers (PCs) in all 50 states. This enables CDC to track the number of Poison Center calls and potential health effects. The data are also being provided to the states so that they can follow up as needed.

Current NPDS data includes all calls received by the BP Deepwater Horizon Medical Support Line since the hotline was established on June 3, 2010.

Each weekday, access updates from the National Poison Data System.


BioSense is a national program that conducts electronic surveillance of health information, and enables public health officials to track changes in a population’s health status through access to existing data from healthcare organizations across the country. BioSense includes 86 coastal healthcare facilities in the five Gulf states (Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas) and staff are watching for specific syndromes (groupings of signs and symptoms) that could be related to the oil spill. CDC provides daily reports of the BioSense findings to the five Gulf States.

Findings (July 25 – July 31)
During this period, reviews of BioSense data have found no trends in the number of illnesses and injuries in the monitored healthcare facilities that would require further public health investigation.

Previous Updates:
Findings (July 16 – July 24)
Findings (July 8 – July 15)
Findings (June 27 – July 7)
Findings (June 20 – June 26)
Findings (June 13 – June 19)
Findings (June 6 – June 12)
Findings (May 27 – June 5)
Findings (May 3 – May 26)

State Surveillance

Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, and Mississippi are using state-based surveillance systems to track oil spill-related health effects that might be related to occupational or non-occupational exposure. The states and CDC are collecting data from sources such as emergency departments, urgent care facilities, and poison centers for evaluation. States and CDC are regularly sharing data and summaries with each other. As of July 31, 2010, states had reported a few complaints of respiratory symptoms, nausea, and headache in people who had possible oil exposures. Surveillance reveals no trends of public health concern related to the oil spill.

To learn more about each state’s system and findings, click on the state map below.

Map of State by State Surveillance State of Louisiana State of Mississippi State of Alabama State of Florida

Previous Updates

August 4, 2010
July 27, 2010
July 21, 2010
July 6, 2010
June 18, 2010
June 10, 2010


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