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Hurricanes Katrina, Rita Left Skin Rashes in Their Wake
Date:11/20/2007

cles. Six (14.6 percent) were found to have fiberglass dermatitis, irritation and inflammation resulting from contact with fiberglass. Two (4.9 percent) had brachioradial photodermatitis, a reaction to sunlight.

Men who were sleeping in previously flooded huts were 20 times more likely to have developed papular urticaria and four times more likely to have a self-reported rash.

Native American workers were more likely to develop papular urticaria and fiberglass dermatitis.

The investigators never found the creature(s) responsible for the outbreaks, but they suspect that a mite infestation of the huts was responsible.

"Some sort of bug was in the hut," Noe said.

Whenever flooding or another disturbance to the ecosystem occurs, rodents and birds are displaced and mites are left looking for other hosts -- humans included.

The findings were consistent with what on-the-scene specialists saw. Dr. Richard A. Keller, a Mohs' surgeon at Ochsner Health System, returned to work the Saturday after Hurricane Katrina and was the only, or one of the only, dermatologists in the city for two or three weeks.

He saw several cases of skin infections that rumors circulating at the time attributed to some strange, Louisiana-specific disease. Instead, the problems were similar to what the CDC found: papular eruptions, poison ivy and photoallergic eruptions.

"We reassured everyone that this wasn't some odd disease," Keller said. "The big thing we did was dispel the rumors."

The CDC recommended that the men living on the military base be relocated to other sleeping quarters, get improved laundry and shower services, and use insect repellant.

"Lay people need to make sure, if they're going into their home that has been flooded, to wear repellant and, if you can, long-sleeved clothing," Noe added.

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