Tsunami Aftershock: Grief, Sickness
Disease, Mental Health Woes Yet to Peak as Tsunami Disaster Continues
I'm shocked and horrified about the thousands of deaths from the
tsunamis! It's like unreal. And the photos are wrenching my heart. Yesterday I
was at my desk in tears from photos of the loved ones and their losses. The
looks on the survivors faces after learning of the deaths of loved ones and the
loss of homes. Little kids and all ... oh god it's horrible ... the pics are
all too vivid ...
Dec. 30, 2004 -- The staggering death count from the Asian tsunami --
114,000 and rising -- overwhelms us. Yet disease and mental health problems
will kill and sicken several times this number, experts say.
What can we expect to see over the coming days, weeks, and months? How can
we cope with our own feelings? What should we say to our children? WebMD asked
- Randall D. Marshall, MD, director of trauma studies and services for the
New York State Psychiatric Institute, New York State Office of Mental Health;
and associate professor of clinical psychiatry, Columbia University College of
Physicians and Surgeons. Marshall has expertise in the diagnosis and treatment
of anxiety disorders, psychotherapy of traumatized
individuals, and the biology of PTSD.
, and has studied and written about the role of
psychological trauma in
- Phyllis E. Kozarsky, MD, professor of medicine and director of the Travel
Well Clinic in the division of infectious diseases at Emory University School
of Medicine. Kozarsky specializes in clinical tropical medicine and travelers'
health. With the CDC, she conducts international surveillance of travel-related
morbidity and emerging infectious diseases.
- Nancy Cahir, PhD, a child and family therapist in Atlanta.
Tsunami Aftershocks: Disease
Tsunami survivors now face three serious problems: lack of food, lack of
clean water, and poor or nonexistent sanitation. Aside from the very real
threat of death from hunger and thirst, these problems mean desperate people
will be forced to consume contaminated food and water.
"We have to look forward to tremendous problems with foodborne and
waterborne diseases: dysentery, cholera, hepatitis A, typhoid fever, and
diarrheal diseases," Kozarsky tells WebMD. "Children are going to be
very vulnerable to diarrheal disease and cholera. Those can kill very rapidly
if support isn't there. Probably there are large numbers of children who can't
find their families. And we know hospitals and clinics were destroyed also.
There may not be any structures for people to go to for health care."
This is far more than enough. But it's not all. Long before the tsunami,
most of the affected areas suffered from mosquito-borne diseases --
and in particular. The waves have receded, but they've left huge
pools of stagnant water in their wake.
"Think of the explosion of mosquito populations and the explosion of
malaria and dengue fever," Kozarsky says. "Those are huge items in a
population where there may be a tremendous number of homeless people. These
numbers may make the mortality seem low. If you say OK, in the tsunami we lost
70,000 people, disease may take a toll as great as that."