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Can J Public Health. 2016 Aug 15;107(2):e142-8. doi: 10.17269/cjph.107.5188.

Public health surveillance response following the southern Alberta floods, 2013.

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Alberta Ministry of Health, Edmonton, AB.



In June of 2013, southern Alberta underwent flooding that affected approximately 100,000 people. We describe the process put in place for public health surveillance and assessment of the impacts on health.


Public health surveillance was implemented for the six-week period after the flood to detect anticipated health events, including injuries, mental health problems and infectious diseases. Data sources were emergency departments (EDs) for presenting complaints, public health data on the post-exposure administration of tetanus vaccine/immunoglobulin, administrative data on prescription drugs, and reportable diseases.


An increase in injuries was detected through ED visits among Calgary residents (rate ratio [RR] 1.28, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.14-1.43) and was supported by a 75% increase in the average weekly administration of post-exposure prophylaxis against tetanus. Mental health impacts in High River residents were observed among females through a 1.64-fold (95% CI: 1.11-2.43) and 2.32-fold (95% CI: 1.45-3.70) increase in new prescriptions for anti-anxiety medication and sleep aids respectively. An increase in sexual assaults presenting to EDs (RR 3.18, 95% CI: 1.29-7.84) was observed among Calgary residents. No increases in infectious gastrointestinal disease or respiratory illness were identified. Timely identification and communication of surveillance alerts allowed for messaging around the use of personal protective equipment and precautions for personal safety.


Existing data sources were used for surveillance following an emergency situation. The information produced, though limited, was sufficiently timely to inform public health decision-making.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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