Katrina hurricane deaths and disease. Lessons for Gustav.

by James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H.

A new timely report in Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness reveals that most of the 986 who died as a direct result of Hurricane Katrina did so in the first day.

Did we learn anything from Katrina? I think so.

Consider: 37 percent died in their homes, 12 percent in nursing homes. Forty-nine percent were 75 years old or older. The causes were:

  • drowning: 49 percent
  • trauma: 25 percent
  • heart-related: 11 percent

Around 700 people died of non-direct hurricane-related injuries, such as auto and other accidents.

A previous CDC report revealed that most emergency room visits were for injuries, respiratory diseases and rashes (including insect and spider bites). All but 15 deaths were in Louisiana.

The lesson seems to be that evacuation is the only current, viable option to save lives if there is extensive flooding, especially for the elderly. It is expensive, but what are the alternatives? Advance planning is key.

What do you think?

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2 Responses to “Katrina hurricane deaths and disease. Lessons for Gustav.”

  1. Leigh Ann Says:

    I saw an interview with a police officer (maybe chief?) in the path of the storm yesterday. He said they’d received a 911 call about some elderly women trapped in a house. Emergency personnel couldn’t go out because of the winds.

    Fortunately, a neighbor managed to get the women out. But I think your point is very important because even if the devastation doesn’t turn out to be as bad as Katrina, the fact is, if you get in trouble during that storm–for whatever reason–you can’t count on an ambulance like you usually could. All emergency respondents can do is wish you’d gotten out like you were supposed to.

    Leigh Ann Hubbard
    Managing Editor
    James Hubbard’s My Family Doctor

  2. Mark Salinas Says:

    I agree…what else can be done besides evacuation?

    Mark Salinass last blog post..Core Challenge

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