Infectious Disease And Natural Disaster
Natural disasters can cause infectious disease outbreaks by displacing many people and exacerbating synergistic risk factors (environmental changes, human conditions, and vulnerability to existing pathogens) for disease transmission. We examined risk factors and potential infectious diseases due to the long-term secondary effects of major natural disasters between 2000 and 2011. Natural disasters such as floods, tsunamis, earthquakes, tropical cyclones (e.g., hurricanes and typhoons), and tornadoes have been associated with infectious diseases such as diarrheal diseases, acute respiratory infections, malaria, leptospirosis, measles, dengue fever, viral hepatitis, typhoid fever, meningitis, and tetanus. Risk assessment is critical in the aftermath of a disaster, and the rapid implementation of control measures through the re-establishment and improvement of primary healthcare delivery should be prioritized, especially in the absence of pre-disaster surveillance data.
Global population growth, poverty, land scarcity, and urbanization in many countries have increased the number of people living in disaster-prone areas, amplifying their public health impacts. Natural disasters have increased in frequency and magnitude in recent decades, causing significant economic damage and affecting and killing millions of people. Disasters such as Hurricane Katrina in the United States (2005) and the Great Eastern Japan Earthquake and tsunami (2011) demonstrated that even the most developed countries are vulnerable to natural disasters. Natural disasters are disruptions to the ecological system that exceed the community’s ability to adapt, necessitating outside assistance. They are broadly classified into three major groups:
• Hydro-meteorological disasters (for example, floods, storm surges, typhoons, hurricanes, and tornadoes);
• Geological disasters (for example, landslides and avalanches);
• Natural disasters (e.g., earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanic eruptions).
Health officials and the media frequently overstated the risk of infectious disease outbreaks in the aftermath of natural disasters, causing panic, confusion, and, in some cases, unnecessary public health activities. Fractures, lacerations, blunt trauma, crush injuries, projectile injuries, burn injuries, and drowning are all linked to injuries and deaths during or shortly after natural disasters. Most people believe that infectious disease transmission and outbreaks are likely shortly after a natural disaster. However, there is no scientific evidence to support that belief, mainly since the disaster did not result in significant population displacement. There is also no evidence that corpses pose a substantial risk for infectious disease transmission and outbreaks, mainly caused by natural disasters. As a result, the survivors are more likely to be the source of acute infections than the corpses. Natural disasters can have a long-term health impact on a community by causing the collapse of health facilities and healthcare systems, the disruption of surveillance and health programs (immunization and vector control programs), the limitation or destruction of farming activities (food scarcity/food insecurity), the interruption of ongoing treatments, and the use of unprescribed medications. Increases in infectious disease transmission and outbreaks following natural disasters are linked to the disaster’s long-term consequences. Displaced populations (internally displaced people and refugees), environmental changes, increased vector breeding sites, high exposure to and proliferation of disease vectors (rodents, mosquitoes), unplanned and overcrowded shelters, poor water and sanitation conditions, poor nutritional status and poor personal hygiene, low levels of immunity to vaccine-preventable diseases or insufficient vaccination coverage, and limited access to health care are examples of these aftereffects. These changes in human conditions, pathogen ecosystems, and the environment facilitate the occurrence and spread of infectious diseases (epidemiologic triad). The goal of an emergency health response system is to prevent and control epidemics while also improving the health of disaster victims. Despite growing interest in disaster studies, few studies have clarified the concept of infectious disease occurrence following disasters. This comprehensive review aims to describe potential contagious diseases that may arise due to natural disasters. Furthermore, we summarize prevention and control measures that public health and humanitarian professionals should consider when dealing with disasters and public health challenges.
Infectious Disease And Natural Disaster
The earthquake that struck Haiti in 2010 was one of the worst natural disasters in history. According to Peranteau et al. (2010):
Immediately after the earthquake the need so vastly outstripped the resources that patients generally lacked basic identifiers and medical records
Nearly a quarter of a million people were killed with another quarter of a million injured, and millions of people were displaced from their homes (World Health Organization, 2010). In the ensuing months, a cholera epidemic ravaged the already traumatized country. The destruction of infrastructure, contamination of water supply, and increased human vulnerability from displacement create favorable conditions for the spread of infectious diseases following natural disasters. Respiratory infections and diarrheal diseases are also commonly found encountered after floods, tsunamis, and other types of meteorological and geophysical disasters.
In the aftermath of such tragedies, priority is placed on implementing control measures to re-establish basic healthcare and prevent epidemics. Nurses often play important leadership roles in both domestic and international disaster response. For this Discussion, you consider disasters from an epidemiologic perspective and how nurses can address health outcomes following them.
Peranteau, W. H., Havens, J. M., Harrington, S., & Gates, J. D. (2010). Re-establishing surgical care at Port-au-Prince General Hospital, Haiti. Journal of the American College of Surgeons, 211(1), 126–130. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jamcollsurg.2010.04.015
World Health Organization. (2010, September). Letter from the editor. Focus: Emergency and Humanitarian Action, 5. https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/205106/B4566.pdf;jsessionid=3C735D0DC06BD1C7497635EDF5928C93?sequence=1
- Consider the role of epidemiologic methods in preparing for or responding to natural disasters.
- Focus on global health initiatives, effects of natural disasters on health outcomes, and global health inequities and how they are magnified by natural disasters.
- Select a recent (within past 10 years) natural disaster. You may choose an event that occurred in the U.S. or internationally.
- Explore the current literature and identify the specific leadership roles that nurses have in mitigating negative health outcomes following disasters.
By Day 3 of Week 11
- Briefly describe your selected recent natural disaster.
- Discuss the health consequences of the disaster at the population level.
- Explain how the concepts of population health and epidemiology discussed in this course were or could have been used to assess health outcomes after this disaster.
- Explain how the concepts of population health and epidemiology discussed in this course were or could have been used to mitigate negative health effects following this disaster.
- Describe the specific leadership roles that nurses have in mitigating negative health outcomes following disasters.