– The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources Bureau for Public Health today released preliminary raw data received from physicians who reported seeing patients, outside of the emergency department, from January 9 through May 31, 2014, for symptoms possibly associated with the Elk River Chemical Spill. The bulk of the chief complaints during the first two weeks following the chemical spill were itching/irritation followed by rash, eye irritation or pain, vomiting, and cough/wheeze.
“After reaching out to more than 800 medical providers, we received 63 reports submitted by physicians across eight of the nine county areas impacted by the chemical spill,” said Dr. Letitia Tierney, State Health Officer and Commissioner for the Bureau for Public Health. “What we are seeing is consistent with the information that has been previously reported by the West Virginia Poison Center, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) initial medical chart review from emergency departments and the population survey conducted by the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department.” The report can be found at http://www.dhhr.wv.gov/News/chemical-spill/Documents/PRFindings.pdf.
Tierney said the Bureau for Public Health is continuing to compile and review data to better understand the health impact of this incident.
“We will continue to work in partnership with Dr. Rahul Gupta at the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department and as well as other entities to see this event through and to determine what means are necessary moving forward,” said Tierney. “Our goal from day one has been and continues to be to protect the health and well-being of the people of West Virginia.”
The Bureau for Public Health is still awaiting the final report from CDC on the Community Assessment for Public Health Emergency Response (CASPER) that was conducted April 8-10. CASPER uses valid statistical methods to help state and local officials improve response to future emergencies, including effective communication with the public. The CASPER that was completed in West Virginia involved officials from the Bureau for Public Health, the CDC and volunteers from the WVU School of Public Health going door-to-door in neighborhoods affected by the chemical spill to survey randomly selected households about public health concerns that occurred during the spill.
Toby D. Wagoner ■ Public Information Officer ■ Bureau for Public Health ■ Phone: (304) 356-4042 ■ E-mail: Toby.D.Wagoner@WV.Gov