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

died in a natural disaster do not spread disease, since they have died of trauma and not disease. Hasty and uncoordinated disposal of the bodies, for example in mass graves or by cremation, should be avoided at all cost, as that would make it impossible to identify the bodies later and to inform the families."

As time passes, acute health problems such as injuries will be replaced by chronic health problems, both those related to the quake and those that were present beforehand.

"In the long-term, chronic conditions that were either created by the disaster or during the disaster or existing chronic conditions may worsen because people aren't getting treatment," Birkland said. "Lung disease, for example, may be exacerbated by dust in the air."

That will increase the burden on Haiti's traditionally fragile health-care system, which will be further strained for a long time.

Also in the longer term, said Goldschmidt, "the problem is that Haiti is going to have a substantial need for additional health-care providers. We're going to need to make sure that an anesthesiologist is available for the woman who needs to deliver a baby by C-section," he added, by way of example.

"The country is substantially challenged and only an international effort will bring the resources to make sure they don't have a long-term catastrophe with a lot of people dying and suffering from lack of medical resources," he said.

More information

The International Committee of the Red Cross has more on the earthquake in Haiti and how to help.



SOURCES: Pascal J. Goldschmidt, M.D., dean, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine; Tom Birkland, Ph.D., professor of public policy, North Carolina State University, Raleigh; International Committee of the Red Cross Web site


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