What You Need to Know:
Hurricane Dorian struck the Bahamas last week as a Category 5 storm that pummeled the island for 48 hours, particularly devastating the areas of Abaco and Grand Bahama. The death toll in the Bahamas has now reached 45 and is expected to increase as thousands are still reported missing. Dorian is also responsible for at least two deaths in North Carolina as it continued its path of destruction northward, making landfall as a hurricane-force post-tropical cyclone in Nova Scotia over the weekend.
Hurricanes usher in a multitude of potential health problems for victims. Prevention of infection and worsening of chronic diseases is crucial following a hurricane, but this is currently a challenge in the Bahamas as hygiene products, life-saving medications, and general care are all in short supply. The more than 70,000 survivors who remain are experiencing dismal circumstances with disease and infection outbreaks secondary to a lack of sanitation and sterility, and thousands are without food or shelter. Others have suffered serious injuries including electrocution from fallen power lines, and trauma from being struck by flying debris.
A surge in emergency department visits is expected several days to weeks following a hurricane as victims are allowed to return to their homes. Research has demonstrated that a limited number of medical problems are responsible for 75% of all healthcare needs after a hurricane. These diagnoses include gastrointestinal, dermatological, and pulmonary infections, treatment for chronic medical conditions, wounds, musculoskeletal injuries, and rashes.
Read more about Hurricanes and Associated Health Affects:
Tintinalli’s Emergency Medicine, 8e: Chapter 6. Natural Disasters > Hurricanes
World Health Organization (WHO): Flooding and Communicable Diseases Fact Sheet
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. State and Local Readiness > Preparedness and Safety Messaging for Hurricanes, Flooding, and Similar Disasters