Environmental Factor, October 2005, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
NIEHS Mobilizes to Assist Hurricane Victims - Again
By Colleen Chandler
NIEHS took no chances, and started preparing for Hurricane Rita's onslaught before she was scheduled to hit the Gulf Coast, an area already ravaged by Hurricane Katrina. Staff worked quickly to add information about Rita to the existing NIEHS web pages that were set up in the days following Katrina's catastrophic landfall.
The web pages, which can be accessed from https://www-apps.niehs.nih.gov/Katrina/, now provide relevant health and safety information on both hurricanes. The Geographic Information System page provides information on sources and routes of contaminants, assessment of human exposures during the aftermath of the hurricanes and potential future exposures for each hurricane.
The website also contains comprehensive information on safety and hazardous waste cleanup for emergency responders in the area.
Some activities that NIEHS initiated or participated in related to Hurricane Katrina included:
- NIEHS's Capt. Bill Stokes, chief veterinary officer for the Public Health Service and executive director of the Interagency Coordinating Committee on the Validation of Alternative Methods, is heading a team of PHS veterinarians assisting with zoonotic public-health issues in Louisiana. Team members are assisting with carcass disposal at biomedical facilities and are treating thousands of rescued animals. As a precaution against outbreaks of zoonotic diseases, the team is vaccinating and treating rescued animals as they are brought to shelters.
- NIEHS is working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to develop public health teams that can be dispatched to the field.
- An NIEHS researcher is serving as an advisor on the Environmental Health Assessment and Habitability Taskforce established by DHHS and EPA to identify health issues that need to be addressed in post-hurricane New Orleans. The team has issued an initial report, but is working on a follow-up document that includes surrounding parishes and provides guidance of dealing with the issues.
Attend the NIEHS forum on Hurricane Katrina relief hosted by DAS on Oct. 5 to hear more about NIEHS activities.