Following a hurricane, life for those affected can be chaotic. Most people must deal with the loss of homes, electricity and severe flooding that often occurs. However, one thing many people tend to overlook in the event of a hurricane is the possibility of the spread of infectious disease. Below you’ll find information on possible diseases after hurricane disasters.
Deadly, uncommon diseases like cholera and typhoid are not likely to become an epidemic following a hurricane in the United States. Diseases such as this are not commonly found in the United States and are therefore not likely to be found amongst the victims of a hurricane. Typically, the disease or infections that are seen following a hurricane are illnesses that were already common for that geographical area. Deadly diseases such as typhoid and cholera are:
Common gastrointestinal disorders may be seen following a hurricane or other natural disaster. It is likely that sewage will contaminate the water supply. Personal hygiene may be compromised and viral infections can easily be spread among people that are in large groups, such as those living in a shelter. Additionally, eating food that has not been properly stored or has been flooded with water may bring about gastrointestinal distress. Steps to avoid gastrointestinal disorders following a hurricane include:
Following a hurricane or other natural disaster, there may be a rise in instances of the common cold. Risk for the common cold can increase following a hurricane due to:
Following a hurricane, there may be an increase in skin and soft tissue infections. Wounds may be sustained due to flying debris, shattered glass or fallen tress. People with previous open wounds and those with wounds sustained due to the hurricane need to take special precautions and care to prevent infection including:
Carbon monoxide is a deadly, odorless and colorless gas that is poisonous. It can be exposed in the home by many types of machinery. Following a hurricane, many people use generators, gas barbeques or other heat sources for warmth. To prevent carbon monoxide poisoning:
Following a hurricane, illness may be contracted from food or water sources. If your power has been out, discard all perishable, refrigerated or frozen food. Bacteria may grow on food that is not stored properly. Regarding water, listen to the radio or news station for any announcements as to the safety of your drinking water. If the water is not safe to drink or use for bathing, use bottled water or properly disinfect your water supply. Steps to safeguard your food and water to prevent illness include:
Following a hurricane and flooding, mold will undoubtedly begin to grow in places that have been exposed to water. Long-term mold exposure can cause health problems, including wheezing, trouble breathing, eye irritation or skin irritation. Exposure to mold may also trigger allergic responses for some people. Mold can been seen on surfaces and detected by smell. People most susceptible to mold infections include:
People that are in crowded settings such as that of an evacuation shelter may be at higher risk for contracting a respiratory illness following a hurricane. Common respiratory infections like the common cold, influenza, bronchitis and pneumonia may be contracted and other respiratory chronic respiratory illnesses like COPD and asthma may be aggravated. Respiratory infections are contracted by:
Huge storm surges like that of a hurricane can cause massive structural damage but can also lead to chemical spills and contamination. Chemicals from businesses, homes or other places can be disturbed during a hurricane and released into the environment. Protect yourself from hazardous chemicals by:
In the aftermath of a hurricane or other natural disaster, there may be much chaos and confusion around you. The most important thing to do is to remain clam and take precautions to ensure your safety and the safety of others.