News & Press

2012


01.06

The aftermath of natural disasters

Diseases that follow natural disasters cause more deaths than the catastrophe itself with water supplies quickly becoming contaminated by human and animal excrement.  Thailand has recently experienced historical flooding after months of monsoon rain, which has left two out of the three landfills submerged, thereby causing contamination of water supplies and rice fields as garbage floats through the streets.  This disaster will not only cause death but is expected to create a financial burden on the economy as costs are estimated to reach $39 billion. The US Secretary of state Hilary Clinton has pledged an additional $10 million to assist the country with recovery after more than 2 million people were affected by the disaster which began in July 2011.

Health authorities are concerned about disease outbreaks which will become rampant as the flood waters recede with increased cases of dengue fever, malaria, cholera, typhoid , and leptospirosis  which are quickly transmitted via water.  Animal urine and feces have been washed into the water supply, which if infected with leptospira  bacteria, may result in cases of leptospirosis  known to cause kidney damage and meningitis.  Typhoid and cholera are also transmitted via contaminated water due to unsanitary conditions caused by the flooding. The World Health Organization (WHO), estimates that 50 million cases of dengue fever occur annually worldwide, with 500,000  requiring hospitalization.  As the flood waters in Thailand recede health authorities fear a surge in cases of dengue fever and malaria.  Areas currently affected with malaria outbreaks are rural, forested locations that border Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia, and Laos in addition to districts of Phang Nga and Phuket.

The Philippines were struck by Typhoon Washi on December  16th 2011 washing entire villages away and killing more than 1200 people, with many more missing, possibly buried beneath the mud.  Flood victims have been left homeless and are now housed in tent cities which are ideal grounds for disease transmission. Healthcare workers are conducting rapid health assessments and have already reported 171 cases of leptospirosis .

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