Health Wise
October 11, 2016
Health and hurricanes

by Dr Rosmond Adams

Hurricanes are natural disasters that have unfortunately been on the rise as the years have gone on. With any natural disaster, comes the concern for human health. Hurricanes bring with them flood waters, the loss of power, little livable space, and a breeding ground for mosquitoes and other vectors. This, in turn, causes molds to grow, endotoxin levels to rise, little clean drinking water, spoiled food, mosquito borne disease concerns, leptospirosis concerns and many other causes for a person to be sick.{{more}}

The physical and economic impacts of hurricanes are well documented and are often the primary focus of post-impact recovery efforts. However, there are several public health impacts associated with these systems. These include direct health effects, such as injury and death, that occur immediately due to the destructive force of winds and surge. However, indirect health effects that are related to clean-up efforts or power outages and loss of infrastructure, such as foodborne and waterborne disease, can also pose a risk to the public.

During a hurricane, do not eat any food that may have come into contact with flood water. If in doubt, throw it out. Do not eat food packed in plastic, paper, cardboard, cloth and similar containers that have been water-damaged. Keep your refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to maintain the cold temperature.

Tap water may be disrupted or may be contaminated. If the water cannot be used or is questionable, and bottled water is not available, then boiling the water will kill most types of disease causing organisms that may be present. If the water is cloudy, filter it through clean cloths or allow it to settle and draw off the clear water for boiling. Boil the water for one minute, let it cool and store it in clean containers with covers.

For patients who are diabetic, insulin loses its potency according to the temperature it is exposed to and length of that exposure. Under emergency conditions, you might still need to use insulin that has been stored above the recommended temperature. Such extreme temperatures may cause insulin to lose potency, which could result in loss of blood sugar control over time. Keep insulin as cool as possible and try to keep it away from direct heat and out of direct sunlight. If you are using ice, also avoid freezing the insulin. When properly stored insulin becomes available, discard and replace the insulin vials that have been exposed to these extreme conditions.

Remember, in the event of a hurricane, store all medications in a plastic bag or container to prevent them from being contaminated from flood waters. Your health and safety is important. Follow the advice and instructions from the authorities.

Dr Rosmond Adams is a medical doctor and a public health specialist.

He may be emailed