Lung Problems Common During and After Natural Disasters

Disaster response teams should be aware of the lung problems and be prepared to manage them

WEDNESDAY, April 27 (HealthDay News) -- Pulmonary complications resulting from direct or indirect injury to the lung are a major cause of morbidity and mortality following natural disasters, according to a review published in the April issue of Respirology.

Bruce Robinson, M.B.B.S., M.D., from the University of Western Australia in Crawley, and colleagues reviewed the pulmonary effects of natural disasters in the immediate setting and in the post-disaster aftermath. They examined the range of pulmonary problems with a view to assist in the planning for future disasters.

The investigators found that pulmonary complications were common following natural disasters. Direct insults to the lung include inhalation of respirable particles (smoke, volcanic emissions, toxic gases, and dust); aspiration of water leading to infection; pulmonary edema; acute respiratory distress syndrome; direct chest trauma, which is the predominant injury mechanism after earthquake; and psychological effects, which may result in respiratory symptoms. Indirect effects of natural disasters include communicable respiratory diseases due to population displacement, lack of potable water, poor sanitation, overcrowding, and nonfunctional health care services. Local health care provision is often unable to cope following natural disasters due to destruction of facilities and supplies, death of workers, and loss of power and water supplies. There is a need for training response teams, and ensuring adequate supplies of equipment and medications for acute and chronic pulmonary diseases, including antibiotics, steroids, bronchodilators, and equipment for tracheostomy procedures.

"Pulmonary problems are major causes of morbidity and mortality following natural disasters. It is therefore vital that disaster preparedness and response teams are aware of these problems," the authors write.

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