John G Bartlett

Natural disasters include earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, and floods. Some authorities also use the term "complex emergencies," which also includes emergencies that impact large populations through war, civil strife, famine, and other events leading to large population displacements with common humanitarian crises (Toole and Waldman, 1997; Connolly et al., 2004). These are characterized by mass population movement with resettlement and crowding, often with limited infection control bringing risk of epidemics (see also Chapter 11). Some of the characteristic features of natural disasters are summarized in Table 13.1 (Sphere Health Services, 2007).

Factors that contribute to infectious disease risks with these complex emergencies include:

• massive population movement and temporary settlement

• breakdown of public health

Table 13.1 Public health impact of some complex emergencies

Effect

Earthquakes

Winds

Floods

Deaths

Many

Few

Few

Injuries

Many

Moderate

Few

Infectious diseases

Few

Few

Variable

Food scarcity

Rare

Rare

Variable

Population displacements

Rare

Rare

Common

Adapted from: Sphere-Health Services (www.sphereproject. org/content/view/114/84/lang,English).

Adapted from: Sphere-Health Services (www.sphereproject. org/content/view/114/84/lang,English).

• loss of health-care infrastructure

• poor sanitation

• food and water contamination

The result is that a common feature of these complex emergencies is outbreaks of infectious disease that may contribute substantially to the morbidity and mortality (Spiegel et al., 2002; Salama et al., 2004; Orellana, 2005; Waring and Brown, 2005; Wilder-Smith, 2005). The consequences of these events depend to a large extent on the type and location of the disaster, as well as the ability of the affected population to respond, and the skill and resources of those responsible for the response.

This chapter will deal with the infectious disease consequences of natural disasters, using the tsunami of 26 December 2004 as a prototype.

Disaster Survival Guides Collection

Disaster Survival Guides Collection

This is a set of 3 guides all about surviving disasters. Within this set you will learn the following subjects: Earthquakes, Evacuations, Survivor Family and Tsunami.

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