The United States has been consumed by the news about the flooding in Texas that accompanied and followed Hurricane Harvey. Many have been comforted by the relatively low levels of morbidity and mortality seen so far compared with disasters such as Hurricane Katrina. However, we should resist complacency. Unfortunately, most of the potential harm from the storm is yet to come, and much of it will fall on children.
Although flooding is one of the most deadly types of natural disasters in the United States and worldwide, floods’ full physical and mental health effects, particularly in the long term, are still not well understood. However, some data do exist and have been summarized in a 2012 systematic review on floods and human health.1 Overall, mortality rates nearly double in the year after floods. Increases in disease outbreaks of hepatitis E and gastrointestinal infections are common, fueled by breakdowns in sanitation services and the contamination of potable water with sewage. The incidence of injuries is usually focused on the short term, driven by wounds from contact with debris. However, physical and mental effects of floods on children can be especially acute and worthy of dedicated, long-term attention.
Carroll AE, Frakt AB. Children’s Health Must Remain a Focus in the Recovery From Hurricane Harvey. JAMA Pediatr. 2017;171(11):1029–1030. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2017.3851
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