-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas
THURSDAY, Nov. 3 (HealthDay News) -- When an earthquake hits, up
to 8 percent of a city's population can suffer fatal injuries, a
new report suggests.
That's because the mass casualties, lacerations, broken bones
and crushing injuries associated with these natural disasters occur
when bridges and roads may be impassable and local and regional
emergency medical care is disrupted, according to a group of Boston
researchers who report their findings online Nov. 3 in
Millions of people live in major cities, such as New York, Los
Angeles, Tokyo, Delhi and Shanghai, that are situated on fault
lines, the researchers noted.
In the past decade, earthquakes have caused more than 780,000
deaths, according to the report. Many people died immediately,
while others died from their injuries in the hours and weeks that
Hours after an earthquake, a second wave of deaths occurs among
victims with serious injuries, such as liver or spleen lacerations,
broken pelvises and head injuries, the researchers revealed, and
the fatalities don't stop there.
In the days and weeks following an earthquake, more people with
sepsis (blood infection) and multi-organ failure also die from
their injuries. People with sepsis are two and a half times more
likely to die than those without it, the report revealed.
Moreover, earthquake victims with chronic diseases, like
diabetes and heart disease, are at greater risk of death due to
limited access to medical care.
Up to 15 percent of a city's population could also be crushed by
heavy loads, resulting in amputations and kidney failure, according
to the report. The death rate for people in kidney failure in the
wake of an earthquake ranges from 14 percent to 48 percent, the
Still, they noted, the most common earthquake-related injuries
include the following:
Earthquakes could also trigger heart attacks. The report
revealed heart attacks rose by 35 percent in the week following the
1994 earthquake in Northridge, Calif. Similar surges were reported
in other places, such as Taiwan. An increase in arrhythmias and
cases of high blood pressure were also recorded following this type
of natural disaster.
Earthquakes can also harm the health of people who are displaced
from their homes, according to the report. Overcrowded shelters can
lead to epidemics of infectious diseases. Bodies, however,
generally do not play a major role in the spread of disease, the
Mental health issues, particularly depression and post-traumatic
stress disorder, also increase in the wake of major
Children are often at higher risk of injury and death than are
adults during earthquakes, the researchers said. The elderly are
also more likely to be adversely affected, since they may not be
able to respond as quickly or may be unwilling to evacuate their
The U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency provides more
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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