Catherine Hooper's Blog
Yelping Foodborne Illness
Wednesday, 28 May 2014 20:48

The NYC Department of Health has been using restaurant review website Yelp to track foodborne illness. Similar to how Google Flu Trends tracks the spread of flu using search terms, investigators were able to track several small outbreaks using restaurant reviews.

They found evidence that people suffering from potential foodborne illnesses are much more likely to turn to social media than report the illness to the DOH (only 3% of the Yelp reviews reporting symptoms had also contacted authorities). Chicago has a similar program that tracks Tweets to identify potential food illnesses.

Godzilla vs. Emergency Preparedness
Thursday, 22 May 2014 16:39

If Godzilla really attacked San Francisco, would we be ready?  It’s constructive - and more importantly, fun - to think about Hollywood disasters in terms of realistic emergency preparedness and response measures (this is why the Pentagon has a zombie apocalypse plan).  Remember, Godzilla was first created in 1954 as a metaphor for the atomic bomb.

HuffPo asked a veteran emergency manager her opinion on the response to a kaiju attack.  Amid some colorful language, she seems to be pretty confident about our chances.

Pentagon’s Zombie Apocalypse Plan
Friday, 16 May 2014 19:48

If you were worried about the zombie apocalypse, worry no more.  The Pentagon has released details about CONPLAN 8888, commonly known as “the six steps our military will take to fight the undead.”

The full text of the plan is hosted on Scribd.

MERS in the US
Wednesday, 14 May 2014 20:52

CIDRAP is reporting that several Florida health workers have come down with flu-like symptoms after treating the second US case of MERS.  MERS is a highly contagious coronavirus that originated in the Middle East and has been frustrating healthcare workers with its transmission rate and high fatality rate.

Check out NPR’s MERS 101 article for a quick overview on the virus.  The World Health Organization (WHO) is currently classifying MERS as “urgent,” but not a global health emergency.

You can take a look at Black Umbrella’s previous coverage of MERS here:

Additionally, we HIGHLY recommend signing up for CIDRAP’s newsletter, as it’s considered the best source for infectious disease news.

The Economics of Flooding
Friday, 09 May 2014 15:00

The economics of flooding are simple. The most desirable real estate locations are often next to large bodies of water. Climate change is causing rising ocean levels, stronger hurricanes and the potential for more flooding. If this risk isn’t mitigated, trillions of dollars are at risk.

VICE Motherboard discusses a new paper that evaluates the cost of mitigating NYC’s flood risk.  It compares the cost of mitigation via improved building codes and standards versus a system of flood barriers and levees (the first is cheaper).  The authors found that a hybrid strategy combining the two plans to be the best course of action.  The important takeaway is that there is absolutely an economic rationale for conducting widespread preemptive mitigation in at-risk cities like NYC.

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