Tsunami Aftershock: Grief, Sickness
Disease, Mental Health Woes Yet to Peak as Tsunami Disaster Continues
WebMD News Archive
Tsunami Aftershocks: Disease continued...
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."
Tsunami Aftershocks: Mental Illness
Experts are only beginning to appreciate the mental health toll of huge
disasters. Intense studies of recent disasters -- including Hurricane Andrew in
Florida, the 9/11 attacks, and the 1988 Armenian earthquake -- provide
startling numbers. A large proportion of survivors, Marshall says, will suffer
major depression or posttraumatic stress disorder. Many more will get stuck in
the worst part of the grieving process, a phenomenon known as complicated
"The mental health consequences of disaster are alarming," Marshall
tells WebMD. "For adults with the worst exposure -- those who feared for
their lives, or narrowly escaped losing life, or dealt with the most horrific
aftermath such as having to bury loved ones -- the PTSD rate could be 30% in
adults and 50% in children."
The scale of this mental health tsunami is difficult to imagine. Marshall's
estimates are based largely on studies of industrialized nations. Studies
suggest that the mental health consequences of a disaster are even more severe
in developing nations. Even in the best of times, these people have scarce
"What we cannot estimate now is how many survivors witnessed the
horrific aftereffects of the tsunami," Marshall says. "It is expected
that probably the majority of those people will recover if their social support
systems are more or less intact. But when entire communities are affected,
social support systems are devastated."
Tsunami Aftershocks in America
Those indirectly affected by disasters do not, of course, suffer anything
like those in harm's way. But we are affected.