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Earthquakes' health impact worse than other disasters

Researchers in the US believe the health effects of earthquakes are "devastating" compared to other natural disasters such as floods and hurricanes
 The health impacts of earthquakes are 'devestating'
 
 

The health and medical implications of earthquakes are more severe than those that occur with any other natural disasters, researchers in the US have found.

Approximately eight percent of a population can be medically affected after an earthquake and it is estimated one in three die from injuries incurred during an earthquake.

Other estimations suggest that for every one case of mortality caused by an earthquake, three more people are injured.

The researchers - Dr Susan Bartels, from the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Dr Michael Van Rooyen, from the Brigham and Women's Hospital – also found that within the last 10 years earthquakes have caused approximately 780,000 deaths.

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It is thought the medical implications of earthquakes are so severe because the tremors often mean injured victims are cut off from medical services and supplies.

Aftershocks of earthquakes also have the potential to cause even more deaths and injuries.

The potential for devastating medial impacts is heightened further because many major cities across the world are situated on fault lines, for example, Tokyo, Los Angeles, New York, Delhi and Shanghai.

Aside from death and injuries of lacerations, broken bones and head injuries, depression is another medical implication often associated with earthquakes.

The research found 72 percent of the population affected by an earthquake also suffered with depression in its aftermath.

According to the researchers, in the aftermath of the 1999 Turkish earthquake 17 percent of the population had thoughts of suicide.

Writing in the medical journal The Lancet, the researchers said: “Because earthquakes frequently affect populous urban areas with poor structural standards, they often result in high death rates and mass casualties with many traumatic injuries.

“These injuries are highly mechanical and often multisystem, requiring intensive curative medical and surgical care at a time when the local and regional medical response capacities have been at least partly disrupted.

“Many patients surviving blunt and penetrating trauma and crush injuries have subsequent complications that lead to additional morbidity and mortality,” they said.

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