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Haiti Faces Serious Health Risks in Quake's Wake
Date:1/14/2010

Lack of medical care, safe drinking water top list of threats, experts say

THURSDAY, Jan. 14 (HealthDay News) -- As devastating as the immediate aftermath of Tuesday's 7.0-magnitude earthquake in Haiti has been, potentially worse public health calamities could lie ahead in the days, weeks and months to come, health experts say.

The decimation of Haiti's infrastructure will be the tragic backdrop to coming public health crises, both short- and long-term. And the country -- one of the most impoverished in the world -- did not have a robust public infrastructure to begin with.

"Now you've got the problem, which is fairly common in disasters like this, that a lot of the infrastructure related to health is severely damaged, for example, hospitals," explained Tom Birkland, a professor of public policy at North Carolina State University in Raleigh. "It's probably worse now, 10 to 100 times worse. The physical systems that support the health systems are broken badly."

"It's a system that's already on the treadmill on a daily basis, so you put this catastrophe on top of it and you have a collapsing system," added Dr. Pascal Goldschmidt, dean of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, which has sent medical teams to the devastated country.

Haiti is still lacking power and most telecommunications. The port and airport were severely damaged by the quake, as were roads, making rescue and relief efforts that much more difficult.

For now, doctors and nurses -- in fact, everyone -- are concerned with finding victims who are still alive and tending to those who have injuries.

The situation is totally unlike that of the 2004 tsunami in Southeast Asia, Goldschmidt said, where most people died immediately from the incoming wall of water. Haiti has many more injured casualties, meaning meager health resources will continue to be severely challenged.

Rough estimates state that 3 million
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