Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Hurricane aftermath: Infectious disease threats from common, not exotic, diseases

13.09.2005


In the wake of Katrina, the public health threats from infectious diseases in hurricane-devastated areas are more likely to come from milder, more common infections rather than exotic diseases. These common infections can often be prevented using simple hygiene measures and a little common sense.



"Deadly diseases, such as typhoid or cholera, are unlikely to break out after hurricanes and floods in areas where these diseases do not already naturally occur," says Ruth Berkelman, MD, Chair of the Public and Scientific Affairs Board of the American Society for Microbiology. "The greatest threats to the people in the affected areas are going to be from diseases that were already there."

Dr. Berkelman is the Rollins Professor and Director of the Center for Public Health Preparedness and Research at the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University. She is a former Assistant Surgeon General of the United States and former deputy director of the CDC’s National Center for Infectious Diseases (NCID).


Common infectious disease problems in New Orleans in the coming weeks are likely to be skin and soft-tissue infections, most likely from cuts, abrasions and wounds. The primary culprits will be Staphylococcus and Streptococcus bacteria, both of which can generally be treated with available antibiotics. Diseases caused by consumption of contaminated food or water as well as diseases caused by mosquitoes or other insect bites are also a threat.

Vibrio vunificus can also cause serious infections, either wound infections or blood poisoning (septicemia); V. vulnificus is a bacterium that is normally present in Gulf Coast waters and is usually contracted by eating tainted seafood. It is primarily a threat to people with weakened immune systems or liver dysfunction. The CDC has confirmed 15 infections with V. vulnificus, 3 of which were fatal. These cases have occurred in areas other than New Orleans where the water has greater salinity.

Another concern is diarrhea and gastrointestinal illnesses from the flood waters. Short bouts of diarrhea and upset stomachs sometimes occur after natural disasters and can be caused sewage contamination of the water. Although at high levels in floodwaters, the E. coli found in New Orleans is the type commonly associated with fecal contamination and is not the E. coli H7:O157 strain that can cause serious kidney disease and bloody diarrhea.

"At this point in time, I think it is just common sense to continue drinking only bottled water unless authorities have tested the water now being piped into some facilities and have declared it safe to drink," says Berkelman. "To also prevent risk of infection, people should practice basic hygiene, frequently washing their hands with soap and clean water or disinfecting hands with an alcohol-based hand cleaner. Individuals should not eat food that has been exposed to flood waters or that has not been properly refrigerated."

One common misperception is that the body of a person who died as the result of the hurricane and is still in the city poses a risk of infection.

"Decaying bodies pose very little risk for major disease outbreaks," says Berkelman. Furthermore, mosquitoes do not spread disease by feeding on dead bodies. There is, however, a risk of mosquito-borne diseases such as West Nile because mosquitoes breed in standing water. Appropriate pest management, including addressing the need to get rid of standing water, is an important public health measure, she said. A bacterial disease, leptospirosis, may be caused by exposure to water contaminated by rodent urine and can be treated successfully with antibiotics.

Over the long term, mold may also pose a threat. Mold growth is an indicator of excess moisture, and much will need to be done to dry out New Orleans and clean up mold growth. Some environmental molds can cause allergic reactions.

Barbara Hyde | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.asmusa.org
http://www.bt.cdc.gov/disasters/hurricanes/katrina.asp

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Molecular Force Sensors
20.09.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Biochemie

nachricht Foster tadpoles trigger parental instinct in poison frogs
20.09.2017 | Veterinärmedizinische Universität Wien

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Tiny lasers from a gallery of whispers

New technique promises tunable laser devices

Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...

Im Focus: Ultrafast snapshots of relaxing electrons in solids

Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!

When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...

Im Focus: Quantum Sensors Decipher Magnetic Ordering in a New Semiconducting Material

For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.

Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...

Im Focus: Fast, convenient & standardized: New lab innovation for automated tissue engineering & drug

MBM ScienceBridge GmbH successfully negotiated a license agreement between University Medical Center Göttingen (UMG) and the biotech company Tissue Systems Holding GmbH about commercial use of a multi-well tissue plate for automated and reliable tissue engineering & drug testing.

MBM ScienceBridge GmbH successfully negotiated a license agreement between University Medical Center Göttingen (UMG) and the biotech company Tissue Systems...

Im Focus: Silencing bacteria

HZI researchers pave the way for new agents that render hospital pathogens mute

Pathogenic bacteria are becoming resistant to common antibiotics to an ever increasing degree. One of the most difficult germs is Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

“Lasers in Composites Symposium” in Aachen – from Science to Application

19.09.2017 | Event News

I-ESA 2018 – Call for Papers

12.09.2017 | Event News

EMBO at Basel Life, a new conference on current and emerging life science research

06.09.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Molecular Force Sensors

20.09.2017 | Life Sciences

Producing electricity during flight

20.09.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Tiny lasers from a gallery of whispers

20.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>