Social Effects of Hurricane Katrina - Health Issues

Health Issues

Aside from the lack of water, food, shelter, and sanitation facilities, there were concerns that the prolonged flooding might lead to an outbreak of health problems for those who remained in the hurricane-affected areas. In addition to dehydration and food poisoning, there was a potential for communicable disease outbreaks of Cholera and respiratory illness, all related to the growing contamination of food and drinking water supplies in the area.

President Bush declared an emergency for the entire Gulf Coast. Before the hurricane, government health officials prepared to respond, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) began sending medical emergency supplies to locations near the worst-hit area within 48 hours after landfall.

Supplies shipped by CDC's Strategic National Stockpile provided pharmaceuticals, technical assistance teams, and treatment capacity for citizens otherwise stranded by the hurricane's catastrophic effect on hospital infrastructure in Louisiana and Mississippi. These supplies served an estimated 30 acute care hospitals south of Interstate Highway 10, and volunteers organized around its, "contingency stations," to become temporary stand-ins for hospitals, warehouses, and distribution facilities damaged by the storm. Alongside strong responses from state and local medical teams, CDC support remained crucial until normal infrastructure support began to return a week and a half later.

Within days after landfall, medical authorities established contingency treatment facilities for over 10,000 people, and plans to treat thousands more were developing. Partnerships with commercial medical suppliers, shipping companies, and support services companies insured that evolving medical needs could be met within days or even hours.

There was concern the chemical plants and refineries in the area could have released pollutants into the floodwaters. People who suffer from allergies or lung disorders, such as asthma, may have health complications due to toxic mold and airborne irritants, leading to what some health officials have dubbed, "Katrina Cough". In Gulfport, Mississippi, several hundred tons of chicken and uncooked shrimp were washed out of their containers at the nearby harbor and could have contaminated the water table. On September 6, it was reported that Escherichia coli (E. coli) had been detected at unsafe levels in the waters that flooded New Orleans. The CDC reported on September 7 that five people had died of bacterial infection from drinking water contaminated with Vibrio vulnificus, a bacterium from the Gulf of Mexico.

Wide outbreaks of severe infectious diseases such as cholera and dysentery were not considered likely because such illnesses are not endemic in the United States.

Read more about this topic:  Social Effects Of Hurricane Katrina

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