DHHS Secretary Leavitt…has warned of the risk of "typhoid
and cholera" as a result of contaminated water, while others have
talked generally of mosquito-borne disease and the hazards caused by
dead people and animals. It is time to separate the real risks from the
Diarrheal disease from contaminated water is a concern, but not cholera
and probably not typhoid. In order to get these diseases the water has
to be contaminated with the organisms that cause those diseases,
neither of which is endemic in that region. What is more likely is
gastroenteritis or hepatitis A from enteric viruses or bacteria.
Similarly the presence of dead animals and people is not a health
hazard. Dead animals decompose naturally in the environment. Unless
they were infected with a contagious organism before death, they will
not themselves become the source of disease. The persistent concern in
mass disasters over unburied bodies is an urban myth. Mass disasters
like floods rarely cause epidemic disease and to suggest otherwise
results in misplaced concern and potential diversion of resources from
more important issues.
The true danger?
The biggest health hazards may well be those we would classify under
"injury." Heat-related illness might be at the top of the list here. As
body core temperatures rise above 105 degrees F., mortality increases
quickly. The high heat and humidity of the area, coupled with
dehydration are a significant health hazard that requires intervention
by providing fluids and cooler shelters. The many sources of physical
injury, whether from feral animals (snakes, alligators, etc.), sharp
metal debris, falls and injuries in an environment where the hazards
are numerous and not easily visible can result in substantial
accumulated morbidity and even mortality. The only remedy is removal of
people to a safer environment, which should be the top priority.
That is from a very smart public health scientist. Shouldn’t our HHS people know such things? Isn’t this about, umm…health and human services…? Read more here.