This time of year, it can be difficult for many of us who live towards the Eastern coast of Canada. In addition, there are countless other parts of the world that are also ravaged by hurricanes on a regular basis during the fall season. Today, let’s examine the effects of major hurricanes from a healthcare-focused perspective, highlighting the most significant impacts they can have on human wellness.
Waterborne Infections and Illnesses
When a hurricane hits, the most significant challenge isn’t building materials or shelter, but clean water. Water is the essence of all life on Earth, and areas hit by tropical storms usually have their supplies tainted by infectious microbes, sewage, and other unpleasant bacteria we’d prefer to not think about. It’s very easy to contract an illness or infection caused by waterborne bacteria, which often leads to a surge in demand for healthcare assistance in the affected area. This is particularly true in tropical climates more frequently hit by hurricanes, which often have limited infrastructure. Some of the risks posed by such situations include Cholera, Typhoid, and more.
Mosquitoes flock to standing water in large numbers, which means that hurricane-hit areas are much more likely to harbour viruses such as Zika and Dengue Fever. Malaria can also be a more prevalent threat. Even after floodwaters recede, there is a very real threat in leftover standing pools. It’s common to see a spike in mosquito population after a hurricane, especially in hard-hit areas from major storms.
Reduced Healthcare Efficiency
Major hurricanes can wipe out entire towns if structures are older or weakened, to say nothing about hospitals, local clinics, nursing homes, and warehouses stocked with invaluable medical supplies. Any pre-existing healthcare issues – doctor or medicine shortages, for instance – will carry through after the storm and intensify, especially if required resources and available beds are diminished in number. Along with supply line disruptions and extensive waiting times, the risk for serious illness or even death is much higher, especially in tropical regions that have a limited infrastructure as it is.
Contaminants from Hazardous Chemicals
Battery acid, oil, gasoline, factory chemical waste, and other contaminants seep into water supplies and are carried through the air during and after a hurricane strikes. They sink into the land itself after the water levels die down, leading to contaminated soil and the potential for long-term illness in local occupants such as various cancers. There may also be a spike in allergies and chronic conditions.
So, how can you help make a difference when it comes to healthcare during and after hurricane crises? If you live in the affected area, limit your biological footprint as best as you can and prepare a well-stocked supply kit in advance – it may prove invaluable later and potentially save lives. Otherwise, if abroad, donations and skilled healthcare workers are the primary resources that drive recovery and lifesaving efforts.
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