WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - A report recently published by the CDC looked into what caused visits to the hospital last fall during Hurricane Florence.
The data revealed that nearly one in three people who showed up to hospital emergency departments during the thick of the hurricane all sought help for the same problem.
The aim of the study was to see how emergency room visits stacked up before, during and after the storm to learn how to be better prepared for future disasters. Researchers used a tool called NC DETECT to track data from emergency room visits between September 7 and September 28 that were connected to Hurricane Florence.
After three epidemiologists reviewed notes from the 443 hurricane-related visits, they classified the data into four health categories: injuries, illness, medication refills and other.
Among the 73 visits before Hurricane Florence, 25 percent of hurricane-related visits were for injuries, 49 percent were for illnesses and 14 percent were for medication refills. A similar pattern was observed for hurricane-related emergency visits after Hurricane Florence.
However, among the visits during Hurricane Florence, 31 percent of emergency visits were for medication refills.
Though the NC Department of Public Safety released messages about including prescription medication in emergency preparedness kits ahead of the storm, nearly a third of emergency room visits during the hurricane were medication refills. The study attributes the steep hike to “disruption of services” like pharmacies that closed down as Wilmington took cover.
North Carolina law actually covers extra prescription medication refills during a state of emergency.
The study also noted that automated pharmacy notifications sent before the hurricane encouraging patients to refill their medications have historically resulted in small increases in medication refills and might reduce medication refill ER visits during future natural disasters.