This entry is adapted from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention’s (www.cdc.gov/travel) Yellow Book. Chapter 2 states that travelers should be aware of the potential for natural phenomena such as hurricanes, floods, tsunamis, tornadoes, or earthquakes. Natural disasters can contribute to the transmission of some diseases, especially since water supplies and sewage systems may be disrupted; sanitation and hygiene may be compromised by population displacement and overcrowding; and normal public health services may be interrupted.
When arriving at a destination, travelers should be familiar with local risks for seismic, flood-related, landslide-related, tsunami-related, and other hazards, as well as warning systems, evacuation routes, and shelters in areas of high risk.
Injuries - After a natural disaster, deaths are rarely due to infectious diseases. Rather they are most often due to blunt trauma, crush-related injuries, or drowning. Therefore, travelers should be aware of the risks for injury during and after a natural disaster. In floods, people should avoid driving through swiftly moving water. Travelers should exercise caution during clean-up, particularly when encountering downed power lines, water-affected electrical outlets, interrupted gas lines, and stray or frightened animals. During natural disasters, technological malfunctions may release hazardous materials (such as release of toxic chemicals from a point source displaced by strong winds, seismic motion, or rapidly moving water).
Environmental Risks - Natural disasters often lead to wide-ranging air pollution in large cities. For example, uncontrolled forest fires have caused widespread pollution over vast expanses. Natural or manmade disasters resulting in massive structural collapse or dust clouds can cause the release of chemical or biologic contaminants. Health risks associated with these environmental occurrences have not been fully studied. Travelers with chronic pulmonary disease or who are immunocompromised may be more susceptible to adverse effects from these types of exposures.
Event-Specific Information - Typically, after natural disasters of a magnitude that may affect travelers, current information about the disaster, as well as travel health information specific to those needing to travel to the affected area, is provided on the CDC website. Recommendations may include specific immunizations or cautions about unique hazards in the affected area.
Environmental Hazards- Air pollution may be found in large cities throughout the world; its sources are often attributed to automobile exhaust and industrial emissions and may be aggravated by climate and geography. Specifically, particulate matter (PM), or particle pollution, consisting of fine particles 2.5 µm or smaller in diameter, may enter the lungs and cause serious health problems. Travelers should be aware that global long-term average PM2.5 concentrations have been estimated to exceed the World Health Organization’s Air Quality PM2.5 Interim Target-1 (35 µg/m3 annual average) in eastern and central Asia and North Africa.
Although the harmful effects of air pollution are difficult to avoid when visiting some cities, limiting strenuous activity and not smoking can help. Any risk to healthy short-term travelers to such areas is probably small, but people with preexisting health conditions (such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or heart disease) could be more susceptible. Avoiding dust clouds and areas of heavy dust or haze is wise.
Thanks to the writers at CDC.
Air Pollution will be continued on March 10, 2014.