Hurricane Katrina Damage Brings Major Health
Medical Author: Melissa Conrad Stoppler, MD
Medical Editor: William C. Shiel, Jr, MD, FACP, FACR
Hurricane Katrina's devastation of parts of the U.S. Gulf Coast is the
greatest natural disaster ever faced by the U.S. With tremendous loss of life
and property, this catastrophe has resulted in serious and potentially
life-threatening health and safety concerns.
In the aftermath of a hurricane or other natural disaster, health and safety
- Caring for those injured during the storm is a
further burden on emergency facilities and hospitals who may have themselves
sustained damage and may suffer from staff shortages (many people are unable
to come to work) and inadequate food and water supplies.
- Flood water can be contaminated by fecal material and
serve as a breeding ground for infectious agents of all types. Typhoid fever
cholera are examples of bacterial diseases caused by contaminated water.
- The lack of safe food and water supplies is compounded by the inability
of relief vehicles to reach many areas.
- Mental health conditions such as depression, grief, anger, aggression,
and potential increases in suicidal behavior can follow a disaster of this
- Heat-related illnesses such as heat exhaustion or
heat stroke can occur
in those deprived of shelter from the oppressive summer heat and dehydrated
from the lack of safe water to drink.
- An increase in mosquitos concentrated around flood
waters constitutes a risk for mosquito-borne illnesses such as West Nile infection
- Safety concerns include potential criminal and violent attacks against
others perpetrated by individuals who have been rendered desperate and
aggressive by their losses.
- Those who need acute medical care or medical services
such as dialysis or chemotherapy may not be able to receive these needed
services. People who need medication may not have access to pharmacies and/or medication.
If you are interested in helping the victims of this
tragedy, please see the article "Katrina Hurricane Aftermath"
, which provides a list of organizations
who need your assistance in relief efforts.
Last Editorial Review: 9/1/2005