Hurricanes and Malaria

As deadly Hurricane Sandy has traipsed across the Caribbean and heads for the US East Coast, we think about the equally dangerous aftermath of such tropical storms.  Below are excerpts from articles that examine the devastating effect hurricanes afterwards by increasing malaria and other mosquito-borne diseases.

sandy-14-20121025-203625p_sm-2.gifScientific American reports that so far, “Sandy killed at least 66 people as it made its way through the Caribbean islands, including 51 in Haiti, mostly from flash flooding and mudslides, according to authorities.” If it is like other storms it may also leave disease in its wake.

Kouadio and colleagues stress the need for risk assessment because, “Natural disasters including floods, tsunamis, earthquakes, tropical cyclones (e.g., hurricanes and typhoons) and tornadoes have been secondarily described with the following infectious diseases including diarrheal diseases, acute respiratory infections, malaria, leptospirosis, measles, dengue fever, viral hepatitis, typhoid fever, meningitis, as well as tetanus and cutaneous mucormycosis.”

Immediately after a tropical storm Anopheles species may temporarily decrease, while other disease carrying mosquitoes may increase, but public health officials need to remain on guard. In contrast two mosquito-borne Infections, malaria and West Nile, were found after Hurricane Jeanne in Haiti in 2004. Campanella referred to the challenges for infectious disease surveillance and the reliability of the results under such post-storm conditions as happened after Hurricane Mitch in Nicaragua.

Reliable surveillance and response is crucial as countries, especially in the Americas, move closer to pre-elimination. Natural disasters can not only destabilize control and surveillance operations, but may enhance disease spread.  Emergency preparedness and response should always include a focus on the diseases that storms leave behind.

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