Infectious diseases associated with natural disasters

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

4 Scopus citations


Natural disasters include earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, and floods. The term "complex emergencies," is also used for natural disasters, which include emergencies that impact large populations through war, civil strife, famine, and other events leading to large population displacements with common humanitarian crises. These are characterized by mass population movement with resettlement and crowding, often with limited infection control bringing risk of epidemics. Factors that contribute to infectious disease risks with these complex emergencies include, massive population movement and temporary settlement, breakdown of public health, loss of health-care infrastructure, poor sanitation, food and water contamination, loss of shelter, and crowding. The result is that a common feature of these complex emergencies is outbreaks of infectious disease that may contribute substantially to the morbidity and mortality. The consequences of these events depend to a large extent on the type and location of the disaster, as well as the ability of the affected population to respond, and the skill and resources of those responsible for the response. Natural disasters are often associated with a sudden increase in the number of strangers in the community, including volunteers, representatives of the press, etc. There are also epidemics of rumors, and of course there is the confrontation with death and dying among families and friends. The community response is quite variable. Often there is anger that is usually directed toward accountability and the search for someone who is responsible, and also anger about inequities in the distribution of resources. It is important for psychiatrists to work with governmental agencies in developing a disaster psychiatric response plan.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Social Ecology of Infectious Diseases
PublisherElsevier Inc.
Number of pages27
ISBN (Print)9780123704665
StatePublished - 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)


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