Hamburg's disease control concept possible blueprint for Europe

1 August 2022
Research project comes up with new means of dealing with large numbers of ill people aboard ships

Concepts for dealing with many ill people aboard cruise ships have been developed during the three-year Adaptive Resilience Management in Ports (ARMIHN) project to cope with large-scale emergencies, a press release said Tuesday (July 26, 2022). This comes amid increased public awareness of the risks posed by infections in the wake of the pandemic. Work on new concepts for protection from epidemics was done as part of a collaboration between the Hamburg Port Health Center (HPHC), Greifswald University Hospital and the Hamburg Central Institute for Occupational Medicine and Maritime Medicine (ZfAM).

Algorithm for triaging

The ARMIHN project focused mainly on improving the ability of rescue forces, ports and health authorities to act in the event of a mass casualty in a port or aboard a ship. Europe has seen several outbreaks of serious infectious diseases in international travel in recent years. Cruise ships could potentially become targets of terrorist attacks using biological weapons, especially as ports link sea and land. Now, a novel, digital approach to simplifying the triage of casualties is proving groundbreaking and gives rescue workers and paramedics urgently-needed information quickly. The IT application developed as part of ARMIHN captures the situation on the ground and helps medical staff decide on further treatment. The triaging algorithm provides an electronically retrievable overview of the number and condition of infectious patients. That simplifies communication between all those involved and eases the planning and co-ordination of available emergency forces and materials.


Adapting findings to other ports

Other cities can now access the results and adapt them to their own port after several exercises have tested the practicality of the concept. "We have thought through possible cases and involved all the relevant stakeholders in Hamburg. We are making the results available to other port cities as good practice so that they can draw on our experience," said Dr. Martin Dirksen-Fischer, Head of the Port Medical Service and co-ordinator of the ARMIHN network. Dr Melanie Leonhard, Senator for Health, added: "European port cities face similar challenges when it comes to health protection. Thus, it makes sense for us to learn from each other." It is important to be prepared for situations in which port cities face infectious diseases aboard ships, which are difficult to assess given global trade and traffic flows, she stressed.

Disease control tugboat manoeuvres container ship in Port of Hamburg

Co-operation between stakeholders tested

The German Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) had funded the ARMIHN project with EUR 634,000 from March 2019 to December 2021. Fire and rescue services, port medical services, social and health authorities, the Hamburg Port Authority, the German Central Command for Maritime Emergencies, external companies and security forces had tested its feasibility in an emergency in the Port of Hamburg. The HPHC, which is part of the Institute for Hygiene and Environment (HU), the Hamburg Central Institute for Occupational Medicine and Maritime Medicine (ZfAM) at the University Hospital Hamburg-Eppendorf (UKE) and the Clinic for Trauma Surgery, Reconstructive Surgery and Rehabilitative Medicine of the University Hospital Greifswald with the Hamburg Fire Department as an associate were involved. The University of Applied Sciences (HAW) developed the technical platform.


Sources and further information

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