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

Haitians have been affected by the earthquake, and perhaps tens of thousands have died.

Many hospitals and clinics are simply gone, and survivors of the quake can't get to the ones that are open, Birkland said.

Dr. Barth Green, chairman of the Miller School's department of neurological surgery, has set up a medical camp in Haiti and has been subsisting on no sleep, along with crackers and bottled water.

"The view of the situation that they have right now is still pretty limited to Port-au-Prince and the major epicenter of the earthquake near the airport," Goldschmidt related. "There is a major problem with food supply and the availability of clean water, which will have a huge impact immediately on the population with the spread of infectious diseases."

In fact, lack of clean water may be the major health challenge facing survivors in the coming days and weeks.

"In general, people can survive without food for several days. It's the lack of water that is the major challenge," Goldschmidt said. "After an entire day without water, people are starting to become severely dehydrated and, after a couple of days, they are dying."

"Dehydration would be a tragic outcome," Goldschmidt added. "The other tragic outcome is if those who are dehydrated get water that is not of sufficient quality and get infections [such as typhus and cholera]. Then you have the next crisis."

The lingering presence of corpses in public areas is less of a hazard in terms of the spread of disease than people believe. "The biggest problem is it's really unpleasant and traumatizing," Birkland said.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said it's not true that dead bodies cause epidemics after natural disasters.

ICRC forensic expert Ute Hofmeister said: "There is a widespread myth that dead bodies may be the cause of epidemics in natural disasters. This is not the case. The bodies of people that have
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