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article imageDiseases Likely Problem for Haitian Earthquake Survivors

By Carol Forsloff     Jan 19, 2010 in Health
In the aftermath of the earthquake tragedy in Haiti, experts maintain survivors will face the problems of disease. That is due to the poor health care systems, lack of clean water, and limitations on basic medical supplies.
The Portland Oregonian reviews some of the major issues that may develop in Haiti, underlying the seriousness of the potential of disease. The lack of health infrastructure for aid workers along with the malnourished, vulnerable population leave a situation where disease outbreaks may be worse than in the aftermaths of other disasters.
The Centers for Disease Control underlines the terrible problems faced by Haiti's population following the earthquake disaster. The agency first declares the following as important information at the outset:
1. Dead bodies rarely spread disease
2. Earthquakes rarely trigger major epidemics
It goes on to review what it considers the most critical health concerns:
* Adequate quantity and quality of water
* Food security
* Appropriate shelter and protection from the elements
* Prevention and treatment of gastrointestinal, respiratory, and vector-borne illnesses
* Provision of health services to prevent maternal and infant deaths
* Prevention of violence and further unintentional injury
* Treatment of kidney failure due to crush injuries
* Prevention of deaths from infected wounds
* Prevention and treatment of inflamed lung tissue caused by concrete dust
Time Magazine speculated on the potential for diseases and epidemics following the earthquake, mentioning that before the calamity Haiti already had serious public health issues. The report noted the following facts to support the thesis that Haiti will have a hard time surviving the earthquake:
" It is one of the poorest countries on earth, with only 1 in every 50 Haitians holding a steady job. No Haitian city has a public sewage system, and less than half the population has any access to drinking-water services. Malnutrition is rampant, nearly 200,000 people live with HIV or AIDS, and just half the childhood population is vaccinated against basic diseases like diphtheria. The quake will make it all unimaginably worse. "Haiti is not anywhere near ready to take care of itself," says Dr. Alina Dorian, the assistant director of the University of California, Los Angeles, Center for Public Health and Disasters. "They are already so vulnerable."
The Winnipeg Press relates some of the types of diseases that can manifest themselves in situations like Haiti because of its poor health conditions and the impoverishment of its people. Typhoid, malaria, dengue fever are among the many diseases that can impact the population.
Dr. Bonnie Henry, who is an infectious disease expert at the B.C. Centres for Disease Control in Vancouver, and Dr. Jay Keystone, a tropical disease expert at Toronto General Hospital, both of whom reiterated the fact that time is of the essence in helping Hait. That's because many of these diseases can be deadly, including measles, for which many children don't have immunization.
Add to the pre-existing problems of poor health facilities and the direct, physical consequences of the earthquake is the problem of anarchy, according to Keystone, who was quoted as saying,
"The potential is there for a worse outcome, but I think with aid organizations moving in quickly ... I think they could do very well at mitigating the secondary effects of this disaster."
"The complicating factor is this is an anarchy society, that there is no security or police. And that could be major factor that could impact on the ability of the aid organizations to do their job."
More about Haiti, Earthquake, Infectious diseases, Centers for disease control
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