Surveillance and Monitoring of Infectious Diseases in San Antonio Shelters

Following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita


Speaker:                     Cherise J. Rohr-Allegrini, PhD, MPH

Epidemiologist, Public Health Preparedness

San Antonio Metro Health District



Level of Knowledge: Basic



On August 30, 2005, San Antonio began receiving evacuees from Hurricane Katrina. By September 3, nearly 13,000 evacuees had passed through San Antonio shelters. Upon arrival, each individual was offered Hepatitis A and tetanus vaccinations. Approximately two weeks later, another 12,000 evacuees from Hurricane Rita entered San Antonio shelters. With the assistance of Epidemiology Field Officers from CDC, the San Antonio Metro Health District (SAMHD) established a syndromic surveillance system in each shelter. Health care services were maintained by three providers:  Barrio Comprehensive, CentroMed, and DMAT TX-1.


A Microsoft Access database was used to record each visit by date, demographic information, chief complaint, and medical dispositions, which was transmitted to SAMHD daily. The data were analyzed in SAS and Excel.  The presence of health care services and syndromic surveillance provided the opportunity to recognize and document any disease outbreak at this long-term shelter. Constant vigilance allowed SAMHD to reassure a concerned community.


Learning Objectives:

  1. Gain insight into methods used and practical considerations involved in establishing a surveillance system
  2. Identify key elements of long-term shelter surveillance design and maintenance
  3. Recognize usefulness in response to potential outbreaks of infectious disease